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Anthem forced to foot the bill for eating disorder coverage

When will insurers start getting real about mental health disorders—and by that, we mean paying for their care? An August 31 article in Becker's details Anthem's forced hand in eating disorder coverage.

Eating disorders are common—the mental health disorders affect nearly 30 million Americans. This is no small number, nor is the price tag associated with its care.

An article in Becker’s Hospital Review discusses a lawsuit against Anthem Blue Cross, citing previously denied requests for treatment of members with eating disorders.

A class-action settlement has since been approved, stating that Anthem members have the choice to resubmit their denied claims or receive a cash settlement. A small victory, but how much damage has been done in the interim? How many individuals had to foot the bill or miss out on treatment for an eating disorder because they weren’t covered? And the ones that did skip treatment—how much did their mental health suffer because of it?

And bigger question: why wasn’t this coverage approved from the get-go? For a disorder that is ranked the second most lethal psychiatric disorder, shouldn’t insurers be taking care more seriously? You would think providers would be interested in covering eating disorders given the serious physical ramifications associated with the condition. Eating disorders are often treated through inpatient hospitalization or rehabilitation, which can get pricey.

Isn’t coverage for pricey, but desperately needed treatments exactly what we pay our insurers for?

The laws are clear. Mental health disorders are supposed to be covered equal to—or on par with—physical disorders. And yet patient care continues to be denied—at the cost of real lives (there are more than 47,000 suicide deaths from mental health disorders in the United States)—all because insurers don’t want to pay.

You’d think a patient’s life was worth more than their hospital bill.

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