Press Releases

NAMI Praises New Mexico Govenor for Signing Parity Bill

Feb 15 2000

Arlington, VA - New Mexico today became the first state in 2000, and the 29th overall, to enact into law legislation aimed at ending unfair discrimination and providing more equitable coverage for mental illness in health insurance plans.

Laurie Flynn, executive director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), singled out for praise Republican Governor Gary Johnson, who twice vetoed previous versions of the bill.

"Governor Johnson kept an open mind and recognized the importance of parity in principle," Flynn declared. "The challenge was in the details. We are grateful for the efforts he made to find a middle ground. We hope that today will mark the beginning of a continued, common effort to address the needs of people with severe mental illnesses in the state."

NAMI also recognized the leadership of State Representatives Eddie Sandoval (D-Bernallilo) and Robert Burpo (R-Albuquerque) in enacting HB 452. Sandoval has been a leader of the parity movement, and Burpo initiated discussions after last year’s veto that led to a bipartisan compromise. As a result, the law includes safeguards to allow businesses to "opt out" of parity requirements if annual premiums increase by certain amounts attributable to the coverage.

Also attending the signing ceremony for HB 452 was United States Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), who also has sponsored national parity legislation now pending in Congress. "Legislation is still needed at the federal level to reconcile patchwork patterns among the states and to ensure that people who work for employers with self-insured plans also are covered," Flynn explained.

"Severe mental illnesses are biological brain disorders," Flynn said. "In essence, they are physical illnesses. They deserve the same insurance coverage as other physical illnesses. We are proud of NAMI New Mexico’s perseverance on this issue, and what they have achieved for the people of the state. Last year, the number of states with parity laws increased from 19 to 28. This year, we hope that New Mexico will set the pace for the rest of the nation—leading to enactment of the Domenici bill. Parity is the right way to go, because it’s simply the right thing to do."