Copyright (c) 2010 Georgia Law Review Association, Inc.
Georgia Law Review
NOTE: THE PARITY CURE: SOLVING UNEQUAL TREATMENT OF MENTAL ILLNESS HEALTH INSURANCE THROUGH FEDERAL LEGISLATION
GEORGIA LAW REVIEW
44 Ga. L. Rev. 511
Christopher John Churchill
Many Americans easily ignore the haunting reality of mental illness. The O'Clair family of Schenectady, New York experienced this reality firsthand, however, with their son, Timothy. 1 The family also came face-to-face with an even greater nightmare: health insurance that provided less treatment for and required higher payments for mental illnesses than physical illnesses. 2
Timothy was a typical child: happy, energetic, and slightly rambunctious. 3 Around his eighth birthday, however, Timothy became increasingly violent and irritable. 4 Timothy's pediatrician referred the O'Clairs to a psychological health group, but the family soon realized that its private health care insurance was inadequate to provide for Timothy's treatment. 5
The O'Clairs' policy allowed only twenty outpatient visits annually for mental illnesses, which was much more restrictive than the policy's limits on outpatient visits for physical illnesses. 6 Additionally, the co-payments (co-pays) for each visit to a psychologist or psychiatrist quickly rose to $ 35, more than triple the amount of the physical illness co-pay. 7 As a result, the family rapidly reached its coverage limit and started paying for Timothy's treatment entirely out of pocket. 8 This financial crunch finally forced the O'Clairs to place Timothy in foster care, where the state guarantees Medicaid coverage. 9
Timothy's story ended in tragedy. 10 Weeks before his thirteenth birthday, Timothy took his own life. 11 His family was left to wonder whether his death could have been prevented if insurance had covered the treatment Timothy so ...
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