NAMI
National Alliance on Mental Illness
page printed from http://www.nami.org/
(800) 950-NAMI; info@nami.org
©2014
 

  NAMI Asks New Jersey Governor To Sign Parity Bill


Contact:
Bob Carolla 703-516-7963
Sylvia Axelrod 732-940-0991
For Immediate Release
7 Apr 99

ARLINGTON, VA-The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) today urged New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman to sign into law legislation to end discrimination in health insurance coverage for persons with severe mental illnesses.

The New Jersey Senate approved S. 86 by a vote of 36 to 1 and the Assembly approved it by a vote of 72 to 3.

"The bill represents a historic opportunity to help the people of New Jersey and to help lead the nation," NAMI Executive Director Laurie Flynn wrote in a letter to the Governor. "Since 1990, 19 states have enacted parity laws. The Garden State is now poised to become the 20th state overall--and possibly the first in 1999--to end discrimination, which for too long has denied people with severe mental illnesses access to adequate health care and has contributed to social stigma."

Virginia, however, is completing action on a similar bill and could edge out New Jersey in the order of enactment.

"Mental illnesses are biological brain disorders," Flynn noted. "New Jersey already is a leader in medical and pharmaceutical research. Support for S. 86 will validate what science already has proven--that treatment works. Citizens of New Jersey need access to treatment for mental illnesses just as they do for cancer, diabetes or heart disease."

Governor Whitman's signature on the bill "will help the people of New Jersey and stand out as a major, bipartisan achievement."

The full text of the letter follows:


April 7, 1999

The Honorable Christine Todd Whitman
125 West State Street
Trenton, New Jersey 08625

Dear Governor Whitman:

The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) asks that you sign S. 86 to end unfair discrimination in health insurance coverage for persons with severe mental illnesses.

The New Jersey Senate and Assembly both approved S. 86 by overwhelming margins. The bill represents a historic opportunity both to help the people of New Jersey and to help lead the nation. Since 1990, 19 states have enacted parity laws. The Garden State is now poised to become the 20th state overall--and possibly the first in 1999--to end discrimination, which for too long has denied people with severe mental illnesses access to adequate healthcare and has contributed to the stigma of mental illnesses in our society.

Mental illnesses are biological brain disorders. In any given year, more than five million Americans suffer from them. New Jersey already is a leader in medical and pharmaceutical research, and your support for S. 86 will validate what science already has proven: that treatment works. Citizens of New Jersey need access to treatment for mental illnesses just as they do for cancer, diabetes or heart disease. Without timely, effective treatment, the result can be tragic--and ultimately more costly--for individuals, families and communities.

Mental health parity also is affordable. In 1998, the National Advisory Mental Health Council reported that under managed care, full parity increases healthcare costs less than one percent a year. Plans that implement parity in conjunction with managed care actually are able to reduce costs by as much as 30 to 50 percent. Last week the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also released data from a national survey showing that 86 percent of employers who made changes in employee health plans in order to comply with federal parity law found that they did not need to make any compensatory reductions in other benefits because cost increases were nonexistent or minimal.

NAMI looks to you for positive leadership. Your signature on S.86 will help the people of New Jersey and stand out as a major, bipartisan achievement.

Sincerely,

Laurie Flynn
Executive Director

 

Back