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BUSCHING-KAPOCHUNAS

2/4/2009 1:59:19 AM

TIMOTHY’S LAW: INTRODUCING NEW YORK TO MENTAL HEALTH PARITY

INTRODUCTION

Joe O’Clair’s job with the New York State Thruway Authority provided health insurance for his family—his wife Donna and his three sons, John, Christopher, and Timothy. Timothy, unfortunately, was diagnosed with depression, oppositional defiance disorder, and other mental illnesses early in his life. Even more unfortunate was the soon- evident disparity in Joe’s health insurance: adequate benefits for physical illnesses, and far less coverage for mental illnesses and treatment. Timothy’s mental illnesses required constant treatment and the O’Clairs could only afford limited and sporadic treatment.

On March 16, 2001, Timothy committed suicide. The O’Clairs believed that with more treatment, Timothy’s death could have been prevented.

The tragic suicide of Timothy galvanized the O’Clairs and other New Yorkers into resolving the disparate coverage for mental and physical illnesses in employer health plans. Their efforts proved fruitful on December 22, 2006, when Governor George Pataki signed legislation to enact Timothy’s Law, which required equal coverage between mental and physical illnesses.

Part I of this Note will discuss the disparity between the coverage provided for mental health illnesses and disabilities in employee benefits plans versus the coverage provided for physical illnesses and disabilities. Introducing the story of Timothy O’Clair, a twelve-year-old boy who suffered from psychological illness and was denied full coverage under his father’s employee benefits plan, this section will illustrate the grave results that occur when insurance companies discriminate against mental sickness. This section will also focus on New York State’s effort to rectify the disparity in healthcare coverage via its newly passed legislation: “Timothy’s Law.”

Part II of this Note begins with a survey of scientific studies evaluating mental health parity laws. The results of these studies are then applied to Timothy’s Law to predict the likely effects of Timothy’s Law

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