Brooklyn, NY – Assemblywoman Joan L. Millman announced that the Assembly and Senate agreed to advance a mental health parity bill, known as Timothy’s Law, aimed at ending discrimination against mental health care by insurance companies in New York State (A.12080). The agreement would require insurance companies to cover most mental illnesses and would require coverage for a broad range of mental illnesses and conditions specifically related to children. This measure is expected to be approved the next time the Legislature reconvenes.
“The Senate has been reluctant for years to advance this meaningful legislation, but in the final hours of the legislative session – facing public outrage and criticism – the pressure brought results. The Senate says it will take up the measure,” Assemblywoman Joan L. Millman said. “Timothy’s Law will help ensure that individuals who need mental health care are no longer second-class citizens in our health insurance system.”
The legislation is named for 12-year-old Timothy O’Clair, who took his life after battling mental illness since age 7. Timothy O’Clair’s parents used the limited benefits their policy provided to help their son, but Timothy needed more care than the insurance covered. Struggling for five years to find additional, affordable medical help, the O’Clairs, out of desperation, placed their son in foster care so he could qualify for Medicaid. But the help came too late. He killed himself just before his 13th birthday, shortly after entering the state system.
“For too long, people needing help for emotional and behavioral problems have been denied proper care because insurance companies either don’t cover these services or only pay for limited visits. Some companies even deny coverage,” Assemblywoman Millman said. “Timothy’s story and his life will forever change how we help others.”
Assemblywoman Millman continued: “This long overdue law will provide insurance coverage for mental health comparable to other medical reimbursements, helping to ensure equitable, affordable care for families who face serious mental health problems. The Senate has vowed to act and they should do so immediately – it’s time we honor Timothy and all New Yorkers facing tough challenges.”