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Great news to implement MHPAEA!
Anyone involved with eating disorders knows all too well the commitment, expense, and time that treatment and recovery encompass. There are no quick fixes on this journey towards reclaiming ones’ Life back from a devastating illness that can lead to chronic health debility and even death if left untreated.
Just mention the word “insurance” to anyone acquainted with eating disorders and you will undoubtedly get a credible grunt of frustration or despair when it comes to what insurance companies “allow” for treatment and follow up care. And for those of us who have loved ones requiring the most intense level of care in either residential ED programs and/or partial-day programs for any length of time, insurance becomes yet another demon to lock horns with; and certainly not what caregivers, families and sufferers need tacked onto an already onerous battle to save someones Life.
We have had many a battle with insurance to get our daughter the care she deserves, and to push beyond the bullying that desperate parents face when told your child cannot get the medical services s/he needs until you’ve taken out a second mortgage, gone bankrupt, taken out exorbitant loans because extended coverage was denied, but by all Dr recommendations is absolutely necessary in continuing care and treatment.
The manner at which eating disorders are covered by insurance (and obtaining equal access to quality care is another needle-in-the-haystack!) is still quite crude that my blood boils when listening to parent after parent exhaustively stating the same heartrending scenario over and over. And speaking with parents and sufferers outside the US, you find some of the same- sometimes even worse.
Well, after stating all this rather negative reality, there is some hopeful news to share with the now infamous New Jersey Blue Cross/Blue Shield class action federal court case which restores my belief, coupled with the progression of Mental Health Parity, that 2009 will continue to move forward and keep chipping away towards change in improved coverage and treatment of eating disorders that is well overdue:
January 10, 2009 Horizon Blue Cross/Blue Shield of New Jersey has tentatively settled a class action pending in federal court in Newark, New Jersey involving reimbursements for medical expenses relating to the treatment of eating disorders. The terms of the settlement must still be approved by the court.
Although Horizon covered treatments related to eating disorders (primarily anorexia and bulimia), including hospitalization, outpatient treatment, psychotherapy and nutritional counseling, there were benefit limits on such treatments.
With the passing of Mental Health Parity many who suffer from eating disorders will finally (albeit slowly-see how your state ranks) be able to begin receiving adequate insurance coverage and necessary treatment needed for long term recovery goals. Great progress without a doubt.
But there is a Judge by the honorable name Faith Hochberg who is rockin‘ the houses of Aetna, Horizon- Blue Cross/Blue Shield who has recently ruled:
- approval Tuesday to a class action settlement that requires Aetna Insurance Co. to provide about $300,000 in back payments to 119 insureds whose benefits for eating disorders were limited.
The company also promised to treat future claims more liberally and make internal reforms to resolve disputes over benefits for eating disorders.
U.S. District Judge Faith Hochberg also approved a $350,000 payment to the plaintiffs’ class counsel, Nagel Rice in Roseland, N.J. All of the fee comes from Aetna, not out of a percentage of the class members’ recovery.
“It makes perfect sense to me,” Hochberg said after ruling that the settlement in De Vito v. Aetna, 07-418, was fair, reasonable and adequate.
The settlement requires the company to treat some claims for anorexia and bulimia as it does claims for biologically based mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia. That makes a class of eating-disorder patients eligible for eight months of treatment, compared with 20 outpatient visits per calendar year and 30 days of inpatient benefits.
The 119 insureds who will receive checks were those who had at least one claim limited by Aetna’s practices during the past seven years. And in the future, Aetna will treat anorexia and bulimia the same way it does BBMIs.
In addition, anyone Aetna determines to have no medical necessity for enhanced eating-disorder treatment during the next four years would have the right to elect binding review by an independent eating-disorder specialist selected with input from the plaintiffs’ lawyers.
At the same time, though, the settlement affects only patients in “fully insured” plans — those funded by employers. Enrollees in self-funded plans, such as employee welfare and state worker health benefits programs, are not covered by the settlement and would not automatically benefit from the more liberal process.
Nagel estimates that about 530,000 of Aetna’s 1.2 million insureds are eligible for the new claims procedures and that the process could be worth up to $2 million in recoveries by the insureds.
As any writer knows, the power of words can be Herculean.
Reuters Health briefly highlights a ‘applied text analytic methods’ study carried out by Dr Markus Wolf at the University Hospital Heidelberg in Germany that can be helpful towards improved therapeutic treatments, and better understanding of the cognitive processing of the eating disordered brain.
Many of us, as parents with children suffering from an ED might also know how delicate, negative, and self-defeating our childs’ thoughts, behaviors, and words can be to themselves- especially when we know how this illness robs our children of their true selves during treatment and recovery.
That’s why it’s even more vital to remind ourselves first and foremost: we are not to blame or at fault for our childs’ eating disorder; and secondly, to separate your child from the eating disorder/illness, especially at the most difficult moments through refeeding, treatment and recovery when it can be the most challenging thing to remind ourselves of.