Survey Shows Nation’s Businesses Preparing to Make Insurance Discrimination A Thing of the Past | NAMI

Survey Shows Nation’s Businesses Preparing to Make Insurance Discrimination A Thing of the Past

Posted on October 23, 1997

Arlington, VA - The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) today released a survey of American businesses indicating little resistance by employers to comply with The Mental Health Parity Act of 1996. Special interest lobbyists are attempting to influence the White House to weaken the law just ten weeks before it is scheduled to take effect.

The survey found that of those businesses familiar with the law, 85 percent are either in compliance or plan to make changes to comply with the law by the end of the year. More than 300 businesses were polled. The study, commissioned by NAMI, was conducted by William M. Mercer, Inc., one of the nation’s leading human resources consulting organizations.

Furthermore, seven out of ten of those same employers agree that mental health parity is a reasonable national policy goal and that parity is important to their employees.

This good news for the families of those suffering from diseases like schizophrenia and manic-depression was tempered by word that the White House is on the verge of caving in to the special interests who have vowed to see this legislation gutted.

"I stood in the Rose Garden with the President of the United States and listened to him promise to end the insurance double standard for those like my daughter who have brain disorders," said NAMI Executive Director Laurie Flynn. "The entire NAMI family cheered that day. Today we stand in disbelief."

The law requires employer-sponsored health plans covering more than 50 employees to provide lifetime and annual caps for mental illness equivalent to other physical disorders covered under the plan. The business lobby vigorously opposed the legislation when it was before Congress in 1996. Now those same special interests are trying backdoor attempts to weaken this landmark health law.

The survey found:

  • 32% of companies have already made changes to comply
  • 43% of companies plan to make changes to comply
  • 12% not sure of future plans
  • 10% of companies were already in compliance
  • <2% of companies intend to seek a waiver
  • <1% of companies plan to drop mental health coverage

The law includes a waiver allowing companies to opt out of the Act if the costs of compliance increase total plan costs by more than one percent. The survey results show companies are moving closer to providing insurance parity for mental and physical illnesses rather than take advantage of this loophole.

"It is not businesses who are trying to skirt the true intent of the this law, it is the special interest lobbyists who have never supported parity and never will," added Flynn. "They should read this survey before they lay more of their ‘sky is falling’ rhetoric on the White House."

"Costs can be managed just like any other component of your benefits program," said Ken Purdy, president of Prime Tanning in New Hampshire. "Since our company implemented parity nine years ago, we’ve found it helps us retain employees and gives us a competitive edge."

The survey follows a casebook written by William M. Mercer, Inc. for NAMI, documenting the efforts of three companies to implement parity. The experiences of these companies offers further evidence that compliance with the new law can be achieved. The companies discussed have actually experienced a decrease in costs subsequent to parity.


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