Missouri Milestone: Insurance Coverage for Eating Disorders

Advocates for people living with eating disorders achieved a Missouri milestone in access to care this week. Some observers are suggesting that it may have implications nationwide. Missouri lawmakers passed a bill that requires health insurers to cover “medically necessary” physical and mental treatment of eating disorders.

The legislation passed and was signed into law after negotiations between lawmakers and insurers who resisted this change for years. In its final form, Stephen Witte of the Missouri Insurance Coaltion says the cost to the industry should be negligible. Full implementation will be required by 2017.

Much like coverage for obesity care, access to care for treatment of eating disorders is marked by arbitrary procedures and outrageous out-of-pocket expenses. Missouri Representative Rick Stream — a key advocate for this legislation — faced a bill for $60,000 for treatment of his daughter when she died nearly 20 years ago from anorexia.

Such situations are all too typical, according to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA):

We field many questions each day that focus on gaining access to care and navigating insurance issues. While there is little argument that early intervention offers the best chance for recovery, insurance often works as a barrier to prompt, thorough treatment. Eating disorders are life-threatening illnesses and anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Yet insurance companies routinely deny coverage for treatment even though studies have shown that a full-course of treatment is cost effective.

Such tactics cause lost lives and lost health. It’s past time for them to be illegal.

Click here to read more from the Associated Press and here to read more from NEDA.

Reach, photograph © Thomas Hawk / flickr

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.


2 Responses to “Missouri Milestone: Insurance Coverage for Eating Disorders”

  1. June 30, 2015 at 5:21 pm, Amy Endrizal said:

    It’s wonderful to see this legislation coming out of Jefferson City, of all places. The “medically necessary” language wisely states that determining factors are overall medical and mental health, not solely weight. (Also like the photo shout-out to St. Louis’s Gateway Arch! I hope Sec. 376.845 RSMo is a gateway to similar legislation elsewhere.)

    • June 30, 2015 at 8:58 pm, Ted said:

      I hope so, too, Amy. Thanks!