SYMPOSIUM: INEQUITIES IN HEALTHCARE: ARTICLE: Parity and Difference: The Value of Parity Legislation for the Seriously Mentally Ill Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 2003 Boston University School of Law
American Journal of Law & Medicine

SYMPOSIUM: INEQUITIES IN HEALTHCARE: ARTICLE: Parity and Difference: The Value of Parity Legislation for the Seriously Mentally Ill


29 Am. J. L. and Med. 185


John V. Jacobi +



Mental illness affects the health status of about one in five Americans each year. More than five percent of adult Americans have a "serious" mental illness--an illness that interferes with social functioning. 1 About two and one-half percent have "severe and persistent" mental illness, a categorization for the most disabling forms of mental illness, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. 2 All mental illness interferes to some degree with social activities. Left untreated, serious mental illness can be disabling--disrupting family life, employment status and the ability to maintain housing. 3 Nevertheless, privately insured people in the United States (that is, the majority of insured people in the United States) are not covered for mental health services to the same extent that they are covered for physical health services. 4 Second-class coverage of mental health services reduces access to care for people with mental illness because cost becomes a significant barrier to service. 5 The resulting lack of treatment fuels the disabling potential of mental illness. 6 People with untreated mental illness are at greater risk of de facto exclusion from society through unemployment, homelessness and incarceration, as well as early death. 7

Disparate treatment of people with disabling or potentially disabling mental illness is a species of disability discrimination. The disability rights movement has raised awareness of the evils of disability discrimination and has accomplished much through its advancement of an aggressive legislative agenda. The movement's seminal achievement was the passage ...
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