Arlington, VA – No increase in overall costs were reported as a result of the law requiring equal health insurance coverage for severe mental illnesses, according to a survey of New Hampshire insurance providers released today by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI).
"Despite claims by some in the insurance industry that this law would cause premiums to skyrocket, these companies reported no change at all due to parity," said Laurie M. Flynn, NAMI executive director.
The Lewin Group surveyed 11 of the 18 insurance carriers and health plans in New Hampshire representing the majority of covered lives in the state. Questions addressed their experience with use of services, costs, premiums, and the extent to which mental health parity was an issue in negotiations with employers or was a complaint from employers and customers.
According to the NAMI commissioned study, increases in premiums ranged from non-existent to small or moderate. Decreases in premiums were even reported for managed care products. None of the changes were reported as influenced by the parity law.
"Some insurance companies argued that this would cause economic disaster," said Rona Purdy, NAMI campaign chair and former president of the New Hampshire Alliance for the Mentally Ill. "This was not only the right thing to do, but as we argued then, the affordable thing to do. The only people in New Hampshire who even notice the change are those getting improved and affordable care."
The parity law was not a factor in negotiating premiums or benefits with employers, according to NAMI’s survey. No carrier or health plan reported concerns expressed by either employers or consumers related to the implementation of the new legislation. In fact, respondents indicated that the legislation was not a major topic of discussion or concern among those at the employer group level. Employers have not made changes in benefits because of the parity legislation nor did they report changes to deductibles, cost-based changes, or medical management.
The law, enacted in January of 1995, requires insurers to "provide benefits for treatment and diagnosis of certain biologically-based mental illnesses [schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, paranoia, and other psychotic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder or autism] under the same terms and conditions and which are no less extensive than coverage provided for any other type of health care for physical illness."
As part of its national Campaign to End Discrimination, NAMI is working in more than 30 states to end unfair insurance practices, an effort spurred by last year’s bipartisan push to pass federal legislation that moves the country closer to insurance parity for serious mental illness. Five states (Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island) have enacted laws requiring health plans to provide insurance coverage for mental illness equal to that provided for physical illness. Two others, North Carolina and Texas, provide insurance parity for state and local government employees. Earlier this month, the state of Colorado joined this elite group by passing a its own parity bill.
NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots organization dedicated to improving the lives of persons with severe mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression (manic-depressive illness), 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 nondiscriminatory 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 illnesses.
"Open Your Mind, Mental Illnesses Are Brain Disorders."
NAMI’s Campaign to End Discrimination is a five-year effort to end discrimination against people with severe mental illnesses in insurance, housing, and employment.
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