New York Antidiscrimination Insurance Law Does Not Require Parity in Coverage for Physical and Mental Disabilities

Developments in Mental Health Law, January 2005 | Go to article overview

New York Antidiscrimination Insurance Law Does Not Require Parity in Coverage for Physical and Mental Disabilities


Efforts have been launched across the country to enhance the benefits available to individuals with a mental illness under employer-provided health care plans. Such plans often include long-term disability insurance coverage that provides income or other benefits for an employee that becomes disabled. For a physical disability, this coverage may last as long as the disability continues or until the age of 65 when Social Security and Medicare benefits become available. For a mental disability, however, this coverage may be limited to a given period of time, such as two years, notwithstanding that the mental disability may be chronic and leaves the individual unable to work.

This lack of parity has been the focus of lawsuits, including one in New York. In New York, as in many states, a law exists that prohibits insurers from refusing to provide insurance to an individual with a mental disability or from limiting the scope of that insurance without an actuarial basis for that restriction.

The high court of New York, however, held that the state's insurance law and its antidiscrimination provisions do not require that an employer's long-term disability plan offer the same benefits for both physical and mental disabilities. The court ruled that the New York law does not prevent an insurer from providing different benefits for different disabilities and ailments as long as the plan itself was equally available to both disabled and non-disabled individuals. …

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