Press Releases

NAMI Praises Tennessee Governor Sundquist For Ending Insurance Discrimination Against People With Mental Illness

May 27 1998

Arlington, VA - Laurie Flynn, executive director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), congratulates Republican Governor Don Sundquist for signing House Bill 3177 into law, putting an end to insurance discrimination against thousands of people with mental illness in Tennessee. HB3177 mandates that health insurance plans provide coverage for mental illnesses at the same level as physical illnesses.

"We congratulate Governor Sundquist for taking a stand against discrimination and requiring equal access to treatment for people with mental illness," said Flynn. "His signature on HB 3177 sends a clear message that discrimination in Tennessee will not be tolerated. This is a major step toward fairness in healthcare for the thousands of people with mental illness in Tennessee."

Special recognition is also given to the bill's sponsors, Representative Page Walley (R) and Senator Robert Rochelle (D), for their dedication to help the one in five families affected by mental illness. By sending this bill to the Governor with unanimous House and Senate approval, lawmakers have validated in legislation what researchers have proven in science: mental illnesses are brain disorders and treatment works.

"We also congratulate the members of NAMI Tennessee who waged a tireless campaign to educate elected officials across the state about mental illness," said Flynn. "Years of hard work at the grassroots level have resulted in a bipartisan effort to put an end to unfair treatment."

For too long, people with treatable mental illnesses have been denied access to medical care due to discriminatory insurance policies. Unlike physical illnesses, most insurers place severe restrictions on services for mental illnesses and impose unrealistic spending caps for treatment needs. Some offer no coverage at all.

Courageous state leaders throughout the nation know that mental health parity is not only a matter of fairness, but that it also reduces taxpayer burden, as fewer people would need to access the welfare system to get coverage for biologically based brain disorders.

In total, 19 states have enacted laws that prohibit health insurance discrimination against people with mental illness: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Vermont.