Timothy's Law

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Timothy's Law is the reference used for a New York state statute signed into law on December 22, 2006 by Governor George E. Pataki which took effect January 1, 2007. The law requires that health plans sold in the state provide comparable coverage for mental health ailments as it does for physical ailments. This is often referred to as mental health parity. [1]



The law was named after Timothy, a boy from Schenectady, NY who died by suicide at age 12 on March 16, 2001. Timothy had been diagnosed with several behavioral disorders including severe depression but had exhausted the mental health benefits on his family's health plan. As a result, the O'Clairs were forced to relinquish full custody of their child in order to make him eligible for Medicaid which paid for all the services which Timothy needed. However, when Timothy returned home, he once again was bound by the limits of his parents medical insurance benefits. [2] In 2003, 2 years after Timothy's death, Timothy's parents joined other mental health advocates and lent Timothy's name to the parity movement in the state of New York and petitioned the state government to pass a law that would require health plans to provide coverage for mental health ailments and behavioral disorders that were comparable to coverage for physical ailments.

"Timothy's Law" was sponsored by Senators Thomas Morahan and Thomas Libous and passed the state senate on September 15, 2006. [3] It was sponsored by Assembly Members Paul Tonko and Peter Rivera and passed the Assembly consecutively for 5 years. Timothy's Law was sent to the governor on December 13, 2006 who later signed it into law. A condition of Timothy's Law passing the NY state legislature was it have a 2-year sunset clause to provide for an actuarial study on the cost effectiveness (the shortest sunset of any law in NY state history). Timothy's Law became effective January 1, 2007. [3] In May, 2009, the Superintendent of the New York State Insurance Department released the actuarial study on the cost effectiveness of Timothy's Law, and reported that the law had considerably increased mental health parity at a nominal cost to employers. It stated that neither consumers nor brokers viewed the mandates as a significant issue relative to cost or their overall purchasing decision. [4]

After both houses of the NY legislature voted to make Timothy's Law permanent in the 2009 session, Governor Patterson signed the bill into law on July 11, 2009. [5] "Timothy's Law" was originally set to expire on December 31, 2009. [4]

Major provisions

The legislation included several provisions that affect the way health insurers in the state cover mental health services.

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  1. Text of Bill #S8482 provided by the New York State Psychiatric Association last accessed 2007-02-14.
  2. "Timothy's Story". timothyslaw.org. Retrieved 2007-02-14.
  3. 1 2 Senate Passes "Timothy's Law" to Provide Mental Health Parity New York State Senate Press Release (2006-09-15). Retrieved on 2009-08-25.
  4. 1 2 Report by the Superintendent of Insurance On the Cost and Effectiveness of New York’s 2006 Mental Health Parity Legislation (“Timothy’s Law”) Archived 2009-08-15 at the Wayback Machine NYS. Insurance Department Report (2009-05). Retrieved on 2009-08-25.
  5. Senate Passes One Hundred Critical Bills New York Senate Blog (2009-07). Retrieved on 2009-13-09.
  6. Pérez-Peña, Richard (2006-12-23). "Pataki Signs Bill on Parity in Health Care". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-02-14.