We are fortunate to have my wife, Ann Marie, guest blogging today about an important issue: eating disorders. If you unaware of my wife’s story, here it is: She struggled with anorexia for twenty years. At several points, she dropped down to 60-some pounds and was on the verge of death. But she battled back. She beat the disease, ultimately earning a master’s degree and counseling young women in Omaha. And right when it looked like she had completely turned her life around, she had to go and marry me!
Last week marked National Eating Disorders Awareness week. Each year, a week is devoted to promoting awareness and prevention of eating disorders in the United States through various creative means including panel discussions, body image presentations, meditation and yoga events, art fairs, and candlelight vigils honoring the memory of loved ones who lost their lives to an eating disorder. It also marks a time for reflecting on the effectiveness of treatment protocols and advocating for treatment to be available to all who suffer.
Health insurance coverage for eating disorder treatment has been a long-standing problem in this country. Strides were intended to be made with the passing of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act in 2008. This Act was meant to improve consumer protection and to provide more access to care for mental illnesses and addictions. However, many insurance companies have used a twisted interpretation of the law in a calculated effort to avoid costs at the expense of people’s health and lives. According to their twisted interpretation, there is rarely any residential benefit under the medical/surgical portion of the insurance plan, therefore, they state, there is no need to provide residential coverage for mental illnesses.
Yet research shows that residential treatment is the ideal course of treatment for eating disorders. It is a cost-effective investment that reduces mortality and the risk of relapse when the appropriate amount of treatment is provided. Inadequate treatment coverage by insurance companies virtually guarantees relapse and the need for additional treatment as well as increasing mortality rate.
The Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy and Action (EDC) is currently pursuing two avenues aimed at fighting this grave injustice. On February 17, 2011, the EDC launched their campaign for “Holding Insurance Companies Accountable” where they are working with families, specialized attorneys, and experts in the field to put an end to such discriminatory and deadly practices of insurance companies. The EDC is currently looking for people who have been denied insurance coverage for residential treatment in their efforts to hold insurance companies accountable. Anyone who has been affected is urged to email the EDC at DCHoldsInsuranceAccountable@yahoo.com with a story of denial of residential care in your state.
The EDC has also planned the EDC National Lobby Day to be held on Capitol Hill on April 12, 2011. The purpose for this Lobby Day is to build even further momentum around and demonstrate why it is vital in the larger context of health care reform. FREED stands for the Federal Response to Eliminate Eating Disorders. It was first introduced to Congress on April 27, 2010, by senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Al Franken (D-MN). The FREED Act is the first comprehensive legislative effort introduced in the Senate to confront the seriousness of these diseases and to jump start research as well as improve the prevention, screening, diagnosis and treatment of eating disorders. It expands federal research, improves tracking and recording of the actual numbers of people suffering and dying from these diseases, provides training for a wide array of health professionals and educators to better identify and screen for eating disorders, creates a new patient advocacy program to help patients get proper care, authorizes grants for eating disorder prevention programs and builds on the mental health parity and health care reform bills to improve access to treatment, particularly for teens covered by Medicaid.
For more information on the EDC’s campaign and National Lobby Day please visit: www.eatingdisorderscoalition.org. All support is greatly appreciated.