Governor Jay Nixon (D) has signed into law a bill to require insurance companies to consider the mental health needs, and not just the weight, of individuals with eating disorders.
Missouri law already requires that insurance companies cover treatment for mental health issues, and that includes eating disorders, but patients have had claims denied due to a lack of specific guidelines.
“What we’re saying is basically the insurance companies just have to abide by the current laws that are out there,” said Senate sponsor, David Pearce (R-Warrensburg).
Eating disorders are life-threatening and can require long periods of treatment to overcome. Pearce says unfortunately, some people have gone without coverage for some of the help they need.
“The patient going through eating disorders would be in a hospital or a residential treatment facility, and once they reach a certain, ideal weight then they were dismissed, or perhaps maybe their organs had started functioning at a certain level, then they were dismissed,” said Pearce.
Pearce says without mental health treatment, patients can relapse.
“We have seen patients who have declined, and some who have even died,” he said.
“What this does, it basically says they will be treated on the mental side. It also says these patients will receive treatment that’s recommended by the American Psychiatric Association, which does include almost all aspects of eating disorders,” Pearce told Missourinet.
In a statement, Governor Nixon said, “Like many mental health problems, a person suffering from an eating disorder may have no outward signs of their struggle. By requiring insurance companies to consider the comprehensive health needs of these individuals, and not just their weight, we can help Missourians struggling with these disorders receive the care they need to recover.”
Nixon added, “I want to thank Senator Pearce and Representative [Keith] Frederick for their work to bring this issue to the forefront and get this lifesaving legislation to my desk.”
Pearce says he got involved with the issue because of family in his hometown, Warrensburg, who had a daughter that died due to an eating disorder.
The law will affect policies bought, renewed, delivered or issued for delivery on or after January 1.