Missouri changes the relationship between eating disorders and medical insurance

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Eating disorders are more prominent than ever, and whether or not you know someone who has personally struggled, it is clear that a change needs to be made regarding eating disorders in the medical world.

Missouri will be the first state in the US to precisely spell out the types of eating disorder treatments that must be covered by insurance companies. Advocates say that this will ensure that families have access to both the mental and physical health resources that are needed for these issues.

For years, families of those struggling with anorexia and bulimia have complained about receiving proper care, firmly believing that patients are kicked out of treatment too quickly, leading to the risk of relapsing.

The payments for continued treatment of eating disorders can be very pricey for families, but a bill signed by Missouri governor Jay Nixon is striving to stop this from happening. The new law goes into full effect this upcoming August, and it could set the stage for other states in the US to follow suit.

Kerry Dolan, the lead for the legislative advocacy program of the National Eating Disorders Association, said that while other states have vague laws requiring treatment of eating disorders, Missouri's law is the first she knows of that fully defines treatment that must be covered by insurance companies.

Annie Seals, the President of the Missouri Eating Disorders Association board said,

Through this measure, health insurers will be required to cover the mental and physical treatments of eating disorders that are proved to be "medically necessary." These treatments will be provided by licensed experts, but it was made clear that weight can't be the sole factor in determining if someone still needs help.

Seals said that weight "isn't necessarily an indication of someone's health." In fact, she had a personal experience that highlighted this for her. Seals' daughter struggled with two different kinds of eating disorders, binge eating and anorexia. She saw first-hand that her daughter went through several phases of treatment before she was fully recovered.

"Medically necessary" language made its way into the conversation as a result of compromise and understanding between lawmakers and insurers. This language is needed because for years, both lawmakers and insurers resisted changes they thought could increase costs.

Hopefully other states with follow suit once this is implemented in Missouri.

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