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MORE MENTAL HEALTH COVERAGE SOUGHT

Advocates for the mentally ill say their next major legislative effort will be to push for insurance companies to offer the same coverage to victims of mental illness as they do for the physically ill.

The New York State insurance system is discriminatory, advocates say, because most insurance plans limit coverage for mental illness to 30 inpatient days and 20 outpatient days.

"Heart patients aren't told halfway through their treatment that insurance coverage will end," said Glenn Liebman of the Alliance for the Mentally Ill. "Diabetics do not lose insurance coverage for insulin because of some arbitrary time frame. The arbitrary yardstick seems to apply only to mental illness."

Last week, about 45 interest groups combined so they could persuade the Assembly to mandate that insurance companies offer "parity" in mental and physical health coverage. More than a dozen states have similar regulations.

But business leaders say they are concerned about the cost of extra insurance, and insurance companies are concerned about adding another responsibility.

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