Recently I posted a blog about the death of anorexic high fashion model Ana Carolina Reston. According to medical reports, Reston, a 21-year-old Brazilian model, weighed only 88 pounds at the time of her death. Doctors at the hospital where Reston was pronounced dead said she “succumbed to a generalized infection caused by anorexia nervosa.” Her family is currently trying to lobby the modeling industry to address eating disorders in an effort to help save other lives.
I thought about Reston the other day when I read that many insurance companies are forcing families into a life-or-death struggle for coverage. According to a new report, while most experts agree that eating disorders are the deadliest of all mental illnesses, the treatments for anorexia are often very expensive and difficult to get. Making things even tougher on patients is the fact that most states don’t treat eating disorders like other illnesses. That’s something the National Eating Disorder Association is trying to change.
“Most mental illnesses deal with the neck up, if you’ll forgive me,” the group’s executive director recently told reporters at a conference addressing issues involving medical insurance coverage and eating disorders. “But eating disorders deal with the top of your head all the way down to the toes because they ravage your body.”
The National Eating Disorder Association spotlighted the struggles of two New York families as examples of how insurance companies heap more pain upon families dealing with sick loved ones. In one instance a young woman battling anorexia had been hospitalized four times and each time her hospitalization was cut off by insurance. While she fought to save her life, her parents fought with the insurance companies, which forced them to spend $175,000 of their own money.
In another case a young anorexic was hospitalized twice within a few months. The second time, the insurance company called her parents after three weeks to say they were withdrawing coverage, a decision her doctors felt would put her at greater risk for relapse. In that case the family is now suing their insurance company.
A spokesperson for an insurance lobby group responded to the lawsuit with this statement:
“What is lacking is a body of information that says these treatments are proven to be the most successful in the long term,” the spokesperson said. “There isn’t any evidence that says if you hospitalize for 45 or 60 or 75 days that they’re necessarily going to do any better than people who are hospitalized for shorter periods of time.”
But, one recovering anorexic told reporters she disagrees and adds that she believes long care therapy can make a big difference.
“I think had I been able to reach that appropriate weight, stay in the hospital you know two three weeks after that, get comfortable with that weight. It would have been a lot easier for me to maintain,” she said.
What do you think? Do you agree with the insurance companies’ policy regarding the treatment of anorexics?