St. Mary's Law Journal


Recent brain research has revealed that the major mental illnesses are organic diseases of the brain. Like other organs of the body, the brain can become ill. Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, a psychiatrist whose sister suffers from schizophrenia, has commented that "[t]he evidence that serious mental illnesses are diseases is now overwhelming..." Notwithstanding recent medical findings regarding the organic underpinnings of mental illnesses, private insurers generally do not provide health insurance coverage for the treatment of these brain diseases at the same coverage levels as for other physical illnesses. In fact, "[m]ost private insurers require larger co-payments and set lower reimbursement ceilings for psychiatric disorders." This disparate treatment in insurance coverage for persons suffering from serious mental illnesses is both discriminatory and wrong. This article will explore the problem of discriminatory insurance practices with respect to serious mental illnesses by examining recent brain research, trends in insurance coverages for serious mental illnesses, and judicial and legislative responses to current insurance practices. Keywords: Brian D. Shannon St. Mary’s University School of Law, St. Mary’s Law Journal, insurance coverage, mental illness, brain research, major mental illnesses, organic diseases of the brain, health insurance coverage, brain diseases, discriminatory insurance practices, medical research, biologically-based diseases of the brain, National Institute of Mental Health, biochemical disease, health insurance policies, public mental health system, insurance limitations for mental health coverage, biologically-based mental illness, physical diseases of the brain.


St. Mary's University School of Law