June 10, 2009

Assembly Passes Extension of
Mental Health Parity Law
Measure makes Timothy’s Law permanent

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Insurance Committee Chair Joseph Morelle and Mental Health Committee Chair Peter Rivera today announced the passage of a permanent mental health parity law. The bill (A.8611) makes permanent the legislation known as Timothy’s Law, originally passed in 2007, which aimed to end discrimination against mental-health care by health insurance providers in New York State. It is currently scheduled to expire on Dec. 31, 2009.

The legislation is named for Timothy O’Clair, a 12-year-old boy who suffered from serious mental illness and lacked adequate mental-health insurance coverage and therefore did not have access to needed mental health care. He took his own life before his 13th birthday.

The measure passed the Assembly unanimously.

"Two years ago, Timothy’s Law established the rights of those who need mental-health care so that these individuals were no longer second-class citizens in our health insurance system. This legislation ensures New Yorkers will continue to have access to the help they need,” said Silver (D-Manhattan). “Our action means that no New Yorkers will have to go back to a time when so many suffered due to inadequate mental-health care coverage."

"Timothy’s Law has been successful in helping more New Yorkers receive mental health benefits critical to ensuring their success at work, in school and at home," said Morelle (D-Rochester), who sponsored the bill. "Making this law permanent will ensure that New Yorkers continue to receive the quality mental health benefits they need."

"With the enactment of Timothy’s Law, children, adults and families throughout our state have been able to afford the health services and treatment that had been out of reach for so long," said Rivera (D-Bronx). "We cannot let this parity expire."

Congressman Paul Tonko, who advocated for the law while serving in the Assembly, said, "The need for everyone in our society to have access to mental health services is well documented, and the dignity that parity brings to those who struggle with mental health diseases brings hope into their lives. Making Timothy’s Law permanent is a just and fair thing to do, and I applaud Speaker Silver, Insurance Committee Chair Assemblyman Joseph Morelle and Mental Health Committee Chair Assemblyman Peter Rivera for their leadership in seeing this bill through."

The legislation requires employers with more than 50 employees to provide mental health benefits on par with their medical insurance benefits. Group health insurance policies would have to provide a minimum of 30 inpatient days and 20 outpatient visits for all mental illnesses. Large group insurance policies would be required to cover adults and children diagnosed with biologically based mental illness and children diagnosed with serious emotional disturbances as other health conditions are covered.