California may see new insurance rules regarding coverage and mental health as judges reach a verdict regarding the issue. Earlier this year, Jeanne Harlick of Northern California was denied coverage for her anorexia treatment. Anorexia, an eating disorder, is designated as a mental illness in accordance with Californian law. The denial led Harlick to file a suit against her insurance company, Blue Shield Blue Cross. A panel of judges from the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of Harlick, citing her long struggle with anorexia and the extreme toll it has had on her body.
Mental illness is a complicated issue, especially when insurance is involved. Few insurers are willing to cover such conditions and anorexia, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia because of their sometimes dubious nature. In the past, there have been several cases of insurance fraud whose resolutions hinged upon whether or not the suspected party was truly suffering from a mental illness. Even medical professionals can have difficulty diagnosing these conditions, lending to the sense of risk insurers feel when providing coverage.
According to California’s Mental Health Parity Act, insurance companies must provide the same level of coverage for mental disorders as they do for physical ailments. This law was upheld by the panel of judges, who determined that the state of the mind can drastically impact the health of the body.
Speaking to the LA Times, Steve Shivinsky, vice president of corporate communications for Blue Shield Blue Cross, said that the company was still reviewing the ruling and was unwilling to speculate as to how it will affect policies in the future.