[Timothy's Team] Timothy's Law in 2005!

Michael Seereiter mseereiter at mhanys.org
Thu Feb 24 09:23:29 PST 2005


Now nearly two months into 2005, the Legislature is back in Albany
dealing primarily with issues related to the release of Governor
Pataki’s 2005-06 Executive Budget Proposal.  Yet, through all of the
excitement surrounding the budget and all of the issues tied to it, it
is clear that Timothy’s Law is very much alive and well, still among the
top issues before the Legislature.

Just as a quick recap of last year, we surely all remember the
disappointment we felt when, at the end of the 2004 Regular Legislative
Session in June, negotiations between the Senate and Assembly broke down
and we were left without a law.  The Assembly passed Timothy’s Law and
the Senate passed their version of parity that failed to provide
coverage for those with addiction needs, diagnoses other than a specific
few, and the millions of people employed by small businesses in New York.

However, to put it all in perspective, the issue of mental health and
addiction treatment insurance parity has made more progress in the past
two years than ever before!  Remember that last year included, for the
first time ever, passage of any form of mental health parity legislation
in the NYS Senate.  It is a credit to your efforts that people
throughout the state consider Timothy’s Law one of the most prominent
pieces of legislation left outstanding by the NYS Legislature last year.
 As long as your efforts continue, we will have the momentum that will
hopefully carry us through to enactment of Timothy’s Law this year!

Three weeks ago, two different versions of parity legislation were once
again introduced in the Assembly and Senate, respectively.  As he has
done over the past two years, Assemblymember Paul Tonko introduced
Timothy’s Law (A.2912), which the Assembly has now passed for a number
of years, and that Timothy’s Law advocates have consistently supported.
 And in the Senate, Senator Thomas Libous has introduced the same mental
health parity bill that the Senate passed last year (S.1672), that
unfortunately falls short of bearing Timothy’s name. 

We now find ourselves with two, of what are commonly referred to as,
one-house bills.  The Assembly has introduced their bill, and the Senate
has introduced their bill, but the same bill has not been introduced in
both houses.  And as we all know, the same bill must pass both houses of
the legislature in order to make it to the Governor’s desk for
consideration.  In order to achieve that, the Senate and Assembly must
sit down and negotiate the strongest parity law possible for the
residents of New York State.  With all of the public support that you
have generated and continue to generate, the time is ripe this year to
craft a law that will provide millions of New Yorkers mental health and
addiction needs coverage equal to that of physical coverage in insurance
plans.  

This year, there are other causes for concern related to our efforts to
end discriminatory insurance policies found in Governor Pataki’s 2005-06
Executive Budget Proposal, as it relates to the Family Health Plus
program.  Family Health Plus provides access to comprehensive health
coverage for eligible low-income adults who do not have insurance
through their employers yet whose incomes disqualify them for other
publicly financed health programs.  The Governor recommends “making the
benefit package consistent with that offered through Healthy New York,”
effectively eliminating all coverage for mental health services
currently provided under Family Health Plus.  This represents a major
step backwards in our efforts to end insurance discrimination against
individuals living with mental health needs, and we all need to weigh in
with our representatives and the Governor to let them know that such
changes are simply unacceptable.

As we move into the heart of the 2005 Legislative Session, we need your
help to make sure Timothy’s Law remains at the top of the priority list
in Albany.  We’ve already gotten a great editorial from the Syracuse
Post-Standard, endorsing Timothy’s Law, which follows below.

To keep Timothy’s Law moving forward, we must all weigh in with our
legislators to let them know that discrimination in insurance coverage
for those with mental health and addiction needs is simply unacceptable.
 Tell them that we want Timothy’s Law to become just that – a law – this
year!  

Call, write, or e-mail your legislator today.  If you’re not sure who
your legislator is, go to
http://map01.elections.state.ny.us/boe/main.asp.  You can then go to the
Senate and Assembly websites, www.senate.state.ny.us and
www.assembly.state.ny.us, respectively, to find out how to contact your
representatives.

And as always, keep in mind that Timothy's Law wouldn't be what it is
today without you.  To continue to grow our movement, please consider
forwarding this message on to a friend and suggesting that they sign up
for Timothy's Team updates at
http://mail.kilakwa.net/mailman/listinfo/timothysteam_kilakwa.net.

Thanks for all your continued support and hard work!!

Hope you enjoy the Syracuse Post-Standard editorial below.



A Case for Parity
Syracuse Post-Standard          January 10, 2005

One day in the not-so-distant future, New York state will wonder why it
kept its head in the sand so long about mental illness. 

The state has yet to pass "Timothy's Law," which would require insurance
companies to cover mental illness and chemical dependency the same way
they cover physical infirmities. Unfortunately, some of the arguments
against the law suggest that it is acceptable to withhold or ration care
for the mentally ill. 

Timothy's Law is named after Timothy O'Clair, whose father, Tom, worked
for the state Thruway Authority. Tom's insurance limited the services
his son could receive for his erratic behavior and moods - 20 visits per
year, one month in a facility. His parents gave up parental rights to
Timothy so he could become a ward of the state and receive Medicaid,
which ironically covers more mental health services than some private
insurance. Their efforts came too late. Timothy hanged himself in 2000,
a few months before his 13th birthday. 

The majority of the Legislature once supported Timothy's Law, but Senate
Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and other lawmakers were concerned that the
cost of providing equal coverage for mental health illnesses would hurt
small businesses or force them to drop coverage altogether. 

But the state Mental Health Association points to a Price Waterhouse
study that found the average New Yorker would pay just $1.26 per month -
or $15 more per year. The agency says that four states with the same
kind of coverage and 30 states with similar coverage have not adversely
affected small businesses. 

The Assembly passed Timothy's Law last session with a $120 million tax
credit meant to cushion small businesses. The Senate came up with its
version of the law, which O'Clair called so "sub-substandard" that he
would not allow his son's name to be attached to it. It would cover only
certain mental illnesses, exempt many small businesses and would not
cover chemical dependency. 

At the very least, the Senate has an obligation to document its
contention that businesses may close or the ranks of the uninsured will
increase if Timothy's Law is passed. 

But, in truth, an argument about money suggests that mental illness is
not a legitimate health-care issue, but a candidate for "optional
coverage." Such thinking continues the stigma attached to illnesses of
the brain. 

Says Tom O'Clair, "The lack of parity cost my family Timothy. Tell me to
my face that you can put a price on that." 

You can't. You shouldn't.




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