Health Association in New York State, Inc.
Community Connections, Fall 2002
the System for Our Families
One out of every 150,000 children under the age of 14 commits suicide each year. About 99 others attempt it unsuccessfully. New York has approximately 3.5 million children under the age of 14. Statistically speaking, our state can expect 23 children under the age of 14 to take their own lives this year, and about 2300 others to try.
On Sunday, June 16, 2002, the Press & Sun Bulletin (Binghamton) ran a front-page story about Kaylyn Mitchell, a beautiful eight-year old girl who has professed a desire to kill herself several times. Her family has spent the days and weeks since Memorial Day in May fighting with their health insurance carrier, trying to get Kaylyn the treatment she needed. Waging an uphill battle, they were driven onward by the stories they had heard of an 8-year old Syracuse boy who took his own life in early May.
During emergency hospitalization at Binghamton General Hospital and Four Winds Syracuse over Memorial Day weekend, Kaylyn was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She was discharged after a week of hospitalization, with no concrete treatment plan and a growing litany of refusals to provide on-going coverage and specialists from the health insurer. Only after intervention by the newspaper has the insurance company agreed to pay for a child psychiatrist and additional visits to a psychologist.
Families of other children across New York State face a similar dilemma every day - some relinquish custody of their children, placing them in foster care so they can get full coverage for their health care needs. Others mortgage their homes to pay, out-of-pocket, for the care their children need. And some put up a losing battle against childhood suicide.
Often at the center of this systemic collapse is the family’s health insurance company. Sometimes, the child’s needs exceed the policy limits, a battle that we fight under the lexicon of mental health parity. At other times, the insurance company refuses to pay for needed services, knowing that a court cannot force them to pay for the injuries caused by that denial of services. The undertaking to change this comes in the form of HMO liability.
Simply put, parity will fix the health insurance policy and HMO liability will allow policyholders to force their HMO to meet their needs.
year, the New York State Assembly passes both comprehensive parity and
HMO accountability legislation. Unfortunately, those bills get no further,
as the measures fail to obtain passage in the state Senate. Even now,
our state fails to follow our nation’s leader, as both parity and
HMO accountability became law in Texas while George W. Bush was Governor.