AFTER a 20-year struggle that was both intense and intensely personal, the Ohio General Assembly has succeeded in passing legislation that requires insurance companies to cover mental illness just as they do physical ailments.
We urge Gov. Bob Taft to sign this landmark measure into law and allow Ohio to join 35 other states whose statutes recognize the devastation and economic loss wrought on millions of people without sufficient insurance coverage for mental problems like depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.
According to the state affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the legislation would benefit an estimated 110,000 Ohioans who suffer from serious mental illness and who have private insurance but whose medical plans either don't cover such problems or are severely limited. It is a form of discrimination with no place in modern society.
Lawmakers recognized objections from business about cost, so the bill would allow insurers to opt out if providing the extra coverage raises their overall expense for coverage by more than 1 percent. Backers of the measure say experience in other states indicates that won't happen.
Proponents also point out that making treatment possible for the mentally ill will allow employers to more than recoup the productivity lost to absenteeism and disability.
One individual who deserves considerable credit for finally getting the bill passed is Lynn Olman, of Maumee, who championed the cause of what they call insurance parity relentlessly during his decade in the legislature. His brother, Kurt, fell victim to depression and committed suicide nearly 20 years ago.
An insurance agent himself, Mr. Olman left the legislature two years ago, but last week he watched from the sidelines, with tears of joy in his eyes, as lawmakers completed action on the bill.
"The business community has seen the reports from all the states that have gone through this, and they have seen that it didn't break the bank," he said. "It did not cause employers to drop their insurance, it did not cause premiums to go up significantly, and they finally got it."
Now that these myths have been largely laid to rest, we hope Governor Taft will drop his own objections to the bill and sign it so that seriously ill Ohioans get the treatment they so badly need and deserve.
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