Sufferers of eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia are now struggling on a new battlefield within the insurance world, calling into question the extent to which laws regulate equivalent protections for mental illnesses.
Court cases and claims regarding severe instances of eating disorders are attempting to require payment for residential treatment center costs, as those institutions provide patients with monitoring around the clock every day so that they will not have the opportunity to skip meals or purge what they have consumed.
Recently, some insurers have re-stated the fact that they do not provide coverage for residential treatment in this type of case, or for other emotional or mental illnesses.
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The insurance companies say that this form of treatment is not only expensive – as their daily costs can reach over $1,000 – but they are also not proven and are more closely related to educational programs than actual medical treatments. Some doctors who regularly treat eating disorder patients say that there aren’t many studies that show the effectiveness of residential care, though they continue to believe that they provide value.
According to the Gail R. Schoenbach FREED Foundation’s education and prevention coordinator, Kathleen MacDonald, “We’ve seen an increase in denials,” and “Now, I go to bed every night and I can’t answer all the e-mails I get. It’s heartbreaking.”
The care centers and patients, and the insurance companies are both carefully watching the Ninth Circuit United States Court of Appeals for the consequences of a ruling they made in California in August which stated that residential treatment for mental disorders and eating disorders must be covered by insurers in that state as a result of the mental health parity law there.