Mary Rappaport 703/524-7600
|For Immediate Release
2 Sep 98
ARLINGTON, VA — The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) today called on California Governor Pete Wilson to stand tall and join 19 other states by signing into law a bill (AB1100) that would require health insurance plans to cover serious mental illness in the same manner as physical illnesses.
“Governor Wilson has a unique opportunity to offer a lifeline to thousands of California families dealing with the challenges of serious, biologically based, mental illness,” said Laurie Flynn, executive director of NAMI. “No one expects to be struck by one of these mental illnesses, but the truth is one in five families will. This is solid public policy that many other Republican governors have embraced.”
By signing AB1100 into law, California would become the 20th state to provide non-discriminatory insurance coverage to people with mental illness. Nineteen states have already 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.
“Long-term chronic mental illness has always evoked one of two things from people who don’t understand it—either laughter or horror,” said Assemblyman Tom Woods (R-Shasta), who was part of the large bipartisan support for AB1100. “Ninety percent of everything we know about the human brain we’ve learned in the last 20 years and what we have learned is this is treatable—that it’s a solvable problem and ignoring it won’t fix it.”
The most recent economic data from the RAND Corporation and the National Institute of Mental Health show that states which have enacted mental illness insurance parity laws have experienced only nominal premium increases as a result. In fact, some of these states have actually experienced a decrease in costs since parity was implemented.
AB1100, sponsored by Assemblywoman Helen Thomson (D-Vacaville) and Assemblyman Don Perata (D-Oakland), would require that HMOs and disability insurers cover serious biologically based mental illnesses under the same terms and conditions provided for other physical illnesses. AB1100 passed the Assembly with a two-thirds majority and passed the Senate by a vote of 26 to 11, with one senator absent. It is now on the Governor’s desk and he has until September 30 to sign.