Valerie Rheinstein 703/516-7963
Ann MacDonald 703/524-7600
|For Immediate Release
4 Jun 98
ARLINGTON, VA -- The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) today called for swift passage of S2165, which would amend the Massachusetts insurance laws so that mental illnesses are covered in the same way as other biologically based diseases.
“We stand together with our Massachusetts affiliate in urging the Legislature to join the rest of New England by passing this bill,” said NAMI Executive Director Laurie Flynn. The state board of the Massachusetts Alliance for the Mentally Ill voted unanimously to reaffirm its support for S2165 on Monday, June 1st.
S2165, which passed unanimously in the Mass. Senate on April 2nd (by a vote of 38 - 0), is now under consideration in the House Ways & Means Committee. Nineteen other states, including every other state in New England, have already enacted parity laws.
“Passage of this bill is a priority for us,” said NAMI Executive Director Laurie Flynn. “We hope that the legislators in Massachusetts will not let this opportunity to end discrimination pass.”
"It is ironic that Massachusetts, home to world-class hospitals and site of some of the most impressive scientific breakthroughs in the understanding of mental illness, continues to lag behind the rest of the country when it comes to health insurance coverage,” said Flynn. “It is time for the Bay State's out-of-date insurance system to reflect what science has already proven time and again: that mental illnesses are biologically based disorders and that treatment for diseases such as depression, manic depression and schizophrenia are often just as effective as those for heart disease and cancer.”
Flynn also challenged those who claim the bill weakens confidentiality rights. "The confidentiality issue has been raised in other states, and it is often just a smoke screen for providers who are lobbying for pocketbook protection under the guise of patient rights," said Flynn. "We at NAMI are concerned only with ensuring access to appropriate care -- and S2165 will allow that."
Flynn noted that several weeks ago the Hay Group, an actuarial and benefits consulting firm in Washington, DC, released a study that showed that behavioral health care benefits have been slashed 670 percent more than general health care benefit costs over the past 10 years (1988-97). "The erosion of health care benefits for mental illness has got to stop," Flynn said. "By passing S2165, the Massachusetts House would send a strong message that discrimination against people with mental illness must finally end in the Commonwealth. We strongly urge the Massachusetts House to pass S2165 immediately."
In total, 19 states have enacted laws that prohibit health insurance discrimination against people with mental illness: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Vermont.