The National Alliance For The Mentally Ill Urges Illinois Senate Action On House Bill 111

Apr 17 1998

Arlington, VA - The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill is urging the Illinois senate to help bring an end to discrimination against people with mental illness and pass House Bill 111 currently being held in the Senate Rules Committee. This landmark piece of legislation requires that insurance companies provide mental health benefits at a level equal to benefits provided for physical illnesses, whenever mental health benefits are offered.

"For too long, people with severe mental illnesses have been denied adequate health insurance coverage. We ask that Senate President James 'Pate' Philip move this bill out of the Rules Committee and help pass HB-111. We want the senate to validate in legislation what researchers have proven in science: mental illnesses are brain disorders and treatment works," said Laurie Flynn, NAMI's Executive Director.

Illinois advocates for the mentally ill were bolstered recently by a March 24 report issued by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Stating that full parity for mental health services in health insurance plans would increase family premiums by less than one percent, this report has negated many of the arguments being led by opponents to the bill.

NAMI Illinois has been fighting hard for passage of HB-111. In response to this new report, Randy Wells, Executive Director of NAMI Illinois stated, "Thanks to SAMHSA, another study has been added to a growing list that shows the cost of parity for mental health benefits is negligible. This can only be a source of great frustration to our opponents who have yet to furnish any data that supports their claims of high costs and economic burden."

More states across the nation are recognizing the ongoing discrimination against people with mental illness and are increasingly passing parity legislation. Georgia's governor Zell Miller signed that state's parity bill on April 6 and South Dakota did the same on March 13. In total, seventeen states have enacted laws that prohibit health insurance discrimination against people with mental illness: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Vermont.

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 172,000 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.