Mary Rappaport (703) 312-7886
|For Immediate Release
23 Jun 97
Arlington, VA -- The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) today praised Texas Governor George Bush and Texas lawmakers for taking a stand against insurance discrimination. HB 1173, signed into law by the Governor on Friday, requires insurance companies to provide insurance parity, coverage for brain disorders on par with other physical illnesses.
"The Governor and the legislature listened to the people of Texas," said Laurie M. Flynn, executive director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI). "State leaders have validated in legislation what researchers have proven in science -- mental illnesses are physical disorders of the brain that are treatable."
The act, which takes effect September 1, 1997, provides coverage for the most serious brain disorders, including schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depression, and anxiety disorders.
Flynn singled out Representative Garnet Coleman (D-Houston), author of the legislation, saying his personal commitment to the issue made the difference.
"Representative Coleman's efforts to see the bill enacted were made all the more meaningful by his candor about his own mental illness," said Flynn. While Rep. Coleman -- who openly discusses his own struggle with manic depression -- has parity insurance coverage (parity legislation for Texas state and municipal employees became law in 1992), he was persistent in his efforts to ensure that all Texans had access to equal insurance coverage.
Flynn also praised Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), who spearheaded the effort in the Senate, adding that he carried the bill through committee to a final, unanimous voice vote on the Senate floor.
Texas joins 13 states that have taken legislative action against insurance discrimination. Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island enacted prior parity legislation. Colorado, Vermont, Delaware, Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Missouri, and South Carolina passed statewide insurance parity laws during this session.
NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots organization solely dedicated to improving the lives of persons with severe mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), major depression, and anxiety disorders. NAMI has more than 140,000 individual members and 1,140 state and local affiliates in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Canada. NAMI's efforts focus on support to persons with serious brain disorders and to their families; advocacy for non-discriminatory and equitable federal and state policies; research into the causes, symptoms and treatments for brain disorders; and education to eliminate the pervasive stigma toward severe mental illness.
"Open Your Mind, Mental Illnesses Are Brain Disorders."
NAMI's Campaign to End Discrimination is a five-year effort to end discrimination in insurance, housing, and employment against people with severe mental illnesses.