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For Immediate Release: May 5, 2009
Contact: Errol Cockfield | errol.cockfield@chamber.state.ny.us | 212.681.4640 | 518.474.8418

GOVERNOR PATERSON ANNOUNCES LEGISLATION TO MAKE TIMOTHY’S LAW PERMANENT

Accepts Study from Insurance Department on Effectiveness of Mental Health Parity

Governor David A. Paterson today announced legislation to make permanent Chapter 748 of the Laws of 2006, “Timothy’s Law.” Timothy’s Law, which took effect January 1, 2007, requires insurers issuing group or school blanket health insurance policies or contracts in New York to provide a minimum of 30 inpatient days and 20 outpatient visits (30/20 benefit) for the treatment of mental health conditions. Timothy’s Law also requires large group health insurance policies (with more than 50 employees or members) to provide coverage for adults and children diagnosed with biologically based mental illnesses and children diagnosed with serious emotional disturbances at the same level of coverage as is provided for other health conditions. Timothy’s Law took effect on January 1, 2007, and is currently set to expire on December 31, 2009.

“On what would have been the 21st birthday of Timothy O’Clair, I am proposing that New York State make permanent the law named in his memory. Timothy’s Law has provided countless New Yorkers with the mental health coverage they need to remain healthy and be productive residents of our State,” said Governor Paterson. “The impact of Timothy’s Law has been far reaching, going beyond the requirement that health insurance cover treatment for mental health conditions, to help eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness and those with mental health conditions that too often cause people to go without the care and treatment we know is effective.”

As required by Timothy’s Law, the Superintendent of Insurance, in consultation with the Office of Mental Health (OMH), has studied the impact of this law and issued a report. Governor Paterson today accepted that report, the findings of which include:

Thomas O’Clair, Timothy O’Clair’s father, said: “I wish to personally thank Governor Paterson for his leadership in proposing that Timothy’s Law be made permanent, and in doing so, honoring the memory of my son, his struggle for wellness, and the struggle so many other New Yorkers with mental health needs face. One in four Americans will have a diagnosable – and treatable – mental illness in their lifetime. And while making Timothy’s Law permanent will not bring my son back, it will allow those millions of New Yorkers who also face mental illnesses to get the treatment they need. While Timothy’s birthday remains a difficult day for me, I wish to thank Governor Paterson for helping to make this day a bit easier with the prospect that Timothy’s Law will be made permanent and other New Yorkers will not face the same challenges my family did in accessing mental health treatment.”

Donna O’Clair, Timothy O’Clair’s mother, said: “Since Timothy’s Law was originally enacted in 2006, I have been approached by many individuals and parents of children who have told me of the positive impact Timothy’s Law has had on affording them the services they or their children need. I am pleased and thankful to see that on this day, Governor Paterson is proposing to make Timothy’s Law permanent so that it will continue to help New Yorkers in need of mental health treatment.”

Timothy’s Law is strengthened by a recently enacted federal mental health parity law. Enacted in October 2008, the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act does not mandate that employers provide coverage for mental health benefits, but requires that those large employer groups (more than 50 employees) that do provide mental health benefits must do so in full parity with other medical benefits covered under the policy. After the Act takes effect in October 2009, Timothy’s Law will require that large group policies provide mental health benefits, and the federal Act will require that any such mental health benefits provided by large group policies be in full parity with other medical benefits.

For a copy of the Timothy’s Law report, visit
http://www.ins.state.ny.us/timothy/tim_super_rpt_052009.pdf.

Congressman Paul Tonko said: “As the original sponsor of this law in the New York State Assembly, I am proud that Governor Paterson has introduced a bill to make this fair and necessary law permanent. As always, our thoughts and prayers are with the O’Clair family, particularly today, as they remember Timothy on what would have been his 21st birthday. Their commitment and determination to Timothy’s life and mental health parity is something we can all be proud of. Everyone deserves the right to be in strong mental health.”

Senator Neil Breslin, Chairman of the Senate Insurance Committee, said: “I am pleased to support legislation to make Timothy’s Law permanent. Mental illness can have devastating consequences for families if they do not have access to the proper treatment. The extension of this law will allow families to continue to receive the treatment they deserve and afford them the opportunity to lead productive and happy lives.”

Senator Shirley Huntley, Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Mental Health and Hygiene, said: “As the prime sponsor of legislation in the Senate to make Timothy’s Law permanent, I am very pleased to have the Governor joining with us and helping to ensure its final adoption. Making mental health parity permanent will assure that millions of New Yorkers continue to receive coverage and get the treatment they need.”

Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried, Chairman of the Assembly Health Committee, said: “I applaud Governor Paterson’s work to make Timothy’s Law permanent. Mental health, just like physical health, is a key factor in the quality of life and the ability to make a living and contribute to the community. Health insurance without that parity is a half empty cup.”

Assemblyman Peter M. Rivera, Chairman of the Assembly Mental Health Committee, said: “There is no better news than to know that New Yorkers with psychiatric disabilities will not be treated like second class citizens. There are powerful political forces that do not want to see mental health parity made permanent in our state. Governor Paterson should be commended for taking leadership on this issue and making health care more equitable for all New Yorkers.”

OMH Commissioner Michael Hogan said: “With this action, Governor Paterson has proposed to end discriminatory health care treatment for New Yorkers with mental illnesses. Our past failure to provide effective early care consigned thousands to asylums, torment or early death from suicide. This legislation to put mental health on par with other health care is not only a health care, but a civil rights victory.”

New York State Insurance Superintendent Eric Dinallo said: “This report shows that Timothy’s Law has been a success. More New Yorkers are getting better coverage for mental health care with no added cost to small businesses. Since the State now fully subsidizes all mandated mental health benefits for small businesses through the State’s Timothy’s Law Fund, small businesses do not pay for this increased benefit. This is particularly important, as small businesses are especially sensitive to health insurance cost increases.”

Paige Pierce, Executive Director of Families Together in New York State and Glenn Liebman, CEO of the Mental Health Association in New York State, Co-Chairs of the Timothy’s Law Campaign, said: “We applaud Governor Paterson and our supporters in the Legislature for recognizing that Timothy’s Law is not a temporary promise to the needs of individuals with psychiatric disabilities and their loved ones, but rather a permanent pledge and the law should reflect this. Over the two years of implementation of Timothy’s Law, this statute has helped millions of New Yorkers by requiring basic as well as enhanced mental health coverage. It assures that these benefits are provided in the same way that insurers provide physical health coverage. Ending mental health insurance discrimination has helped people with psychiatric disabilities to secure the supports and services they need to move forward in their lives. Timothy’s Law has been a win-win for all New Yorkers and we strongly support the call by the Governor for a permanent law.”

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