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ARLINGTON, VA - Utah's House of Representatives for the first time has passed legislation to end health insurance discrimination for people with severe mental illnesses.
On February 23, 1999, the House voted 38-31 to pass the bill. Yesterday, the measure moved to the Senate after House opponents failed in a last-ditch effort to defeat the measure through a 24-hour hold.
"Utah today should stand proud," declared Laurie Flynn, executive director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI). "The bill is an important milestone on the road to fairness in health insurance coverage and a building-block for the future. The eyes of the nation are on the state. We hope that procedural tricks and scorched-earth lobbying tactics by the insurance industry will not be allowed to defeat the bill in the final days of the session."
Flynn praised the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormon Church) for "setting a moral example" by recently embracing parity for mental illnesses in health insurance provided to Church employees and their families. "Many churches support legislation for parity," Flynn observed, "but the LDS Church is one of the first--if not the only church--in America to require parity as a matter of principle for its own employees."
Serious mental illnesses include schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders. "Mental illnesses are biological brain disorders," Flynn said, "and treatment works. It is wrong to deny treatment based on discrimination. All of Utah deserves parity. We hope the Senate will do what's right."