A new law sponsored by Senator John Flanagan (2nd Senate District) providing parity in insurance coverage for mental illnesses has been signed into law and will be in effect at the beginning of the New Year. The law was passed unanimously by both houses of the New York State Legislature prior to gaining the approval of Governor George Pataki.
Named in honor of 12-year-old Timothy O'Clair of Rotterdam, who sadly took his own life in 2001 after repeated bouts of depression, the legislation would require insurance companies to cover most mental illnesses in a manner comparable to their coverage of medical care. It would also require coverage for a broad range of mental illnesses and conditions specifically related to children.
"I applaud Governor Pataki for making this vital protection one of his last official acts. This signifies that mental illness is no different than physical ailments and will go a long way to removing the stigma attached to those who are afflicted with these types of problems. This is legislation I am proud to say I voted for and one that this entire state should be proud of," stated Senator Flanagan. "This opens the door to needed treatment to so many of our residents and is a clear sign that New York State is moving forward in health care for everyone."
Timothy's Law includes the following provisions:
COVERAGE FOR TREATMENT OF MENTAL ILLNESSES - The law will require insurance companies to cover 30 inpatient days of treatment and 20 outpatient days of treatment for all mental illnesses.
It will also require insurance companies to fully cover biologically based mental illnesses, including the following: Schizophrenia/psychotic disorders, Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Delusional Disorders, Panic Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Bulimia, Anorexia and Binge Eating.
COVERAGE FOR CHILDREN WITH MENTAL ILLNESS - In addition, Timothy's Law will require insurance coverage for children under age 18 with attention deficit disorder, disruptive behavior disorders or pervasive development disorders where there are serious suicidal symptoms or other life-threatening self-destructive behavior; significant psychotic symptoms (hallucinations, delusion, bizarre behaviors); behavior caused by emotional disturbances that placed the child at risk of causing personal injury or significant property damage; or behavior caused by emotional disturbances that placed the child at substantial risk of removal from the household.
To address cost concerns raised by small businesses, the New York State Superintendent of Insurance is directed to implement a system that would protect small businesses. A fund will also be created to fully offset any increase in insurance premiums on businesses with 50 or fewer employees resulting from this legislation.
The new law will also require the New York State Insurance Department and the Office of Mental Health to conduct a two year study to determine the effectiveness and impact of mental health parity legislation in New York and other states.
The law is designed to sunset on December 31, 2009, to provide for an opportunity to amend the law based on the findings and recommendations of the study.
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