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Rep.Coleman, Garnet F.

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Coleman Files Three Bills to Expand Insurance Coverage for Mental Illness  print page

by: Rep. Coleman, Garnet F.
03/01/2005

~ Bipolar Legislator knows first hand the importance of comprehensive coverage for mentally ill ~


(Austin) -- Representative Garnet F. Coleman filed three bills today that expand insurance coverage for those suffering from mental illness.


HB 1784 is a comprehensive mental health parity bill that requires the same degree of insurance coverage for mental illness that is currently provided for physical illness; HB 1785 amends the insurance code by requiring health benefit plans to provide coverage of self-inflicted injuries by minors in the course of a suicide attempt or due to a serious mental illness; and HB 1786 expands the definition of "serious mental illness" to include anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, and requires insurance companies to provide coverage of these eating disorders equal to coverage for other serious mental illnesses. Rep. Coleman has filed all three bills during previous sessions.


For people who suffer from mental illnesses, the struggle to cope and function in society can be overwhelming. The manifestations of mental illness can be just as serious, and often more debilitating, as those related to physical illness.


"Insurance providers cover heart disease no matter how many heart attacks a person has," said Coleman. "A person that has a life threatening or inhibiting mental illness deserves the same coverage, quality attention and care."


Rep. Coleman knows the pitfalls of mental illness first hand. In 1994, following the death of his father, he sank into a deep depression, went into hiding and was later hospitalized. At this time, he was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder. Since undergoing treatment, Coleman speaks openly with his constituents and fellow lawmakers about his struggle with the condition.


"I've always been an advocate for mental health care and the issue crystallized for me after I was hospitalized." said Coleman. "Ten years later, I am glad to see others are joining the fight."


Coleman's Legislation


HB 1784 -- Mental Health Parity
-Requires Pure Parity- Requires a health benefit plan or coverage provider to provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of a mental disorder under the same terms and conditions as coverage for diagnosis and treatment of physical illness.
-Equal coverage for:
* Diagnosis and treatment
* Inpatient and outpatient care
* Amount limits, deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance
-Defines mental disorder as defined by the American Psychiatric Association. Therefore, all mental illnesses listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the main reference book for mental health professionals, would be covered.
-Defines type of health plan applicable (includes small businesses- which are exempt from the partial parity bill passed by Rep. Coleman in 1997).


HB 1785 Self-inflicted injury
-Bill prohibits insurance companies from excluding coverage of self-inflicted injuries of a minor that occur in either a suicide attempt or as a result of a serious mental illness.
-Requires equal coverage for amount limits, deductibles, co-pays, and co-insurance.


HB 1768 Anorexia/Bulimia
-Prohibits insurance companies from excluding coverage of anorexia and bulimia.
-Expands the definition of "serious mental illness" in the Mental Health Parity Act to include anorexia and bulimia.
-Requires Sunset Advisory Commission to conduct a study to determine enrollee usage and cost impact by September 1, 2010 and report its findings to the legislature by January 1, 2011.


Background

In 1997 Rep. Coleman succeeded in passing a partial parity act, HB 1173, that significantly increased coverage for those suffering from "serious mental illnesses." However, the act did not include all mental illnesses, did not require small businesses to comply and did not create equal coverage of mental and physical illnesses. Every subsequent session, Rep. Coleman has filed various pieces of legislation to create more comprehensive coverage.

Coleman is a member of the House Committee on Public Health, a board member for the National Association of Mental Health and former board member for the National Alliance of Mental Illness; and has received awards from numerous mental health associations. Most recently, the Central Texas African American Family Support Conference established the Garnet F. Coleman "Eternal Flame" award in his honor, citing his outstanding contributions to keep the flame burning for mental health advocacy.


Rep. Coleman represents District 147 in Houston and is the Chair of the Legislative Study Group (LSG) and the Texas Legislative Black Caucus (TLBC).


For More Information Contact:
Ben Hallmark or Lauren Rose
(512) 463-0524

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