Eating disorder coverage in focus
A California attorney who won a landmark court decision in August 2011 for sufferers of anorexia nervosa and eight other mental illnesses encouraged eating disorder professionals Wednesday to pursue similar legal action in their respective states.
Attorney Lisa Kantor, who won Harlick v. Blue Shield, was among the speakers kicking off the four-day International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals Symposium, held at the Charleston Marriott.
In all, more than 450 leading eating-disorder experts, including psychiatrists, psychologists, physicians, nurses, therapists and registered dietitians, are attending the conference.
Kantor's workshop was highly anticipated because, until the court decision, insurance coverage of residential treatment for anorexia nervosa was unprecedented.
Although the decision was made in the context of a patient with an eating disorder, judges in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the California Mental Health Parity Act requires coverage of all "medically necessary treatment" for nine "severe mental illnesses."
Besides anorexia, those illnesses included schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, autism or pervasive developmental disorder and serious emotional disturbance in children and adolescents.
"My pitch to everyone here is to look at what your state statute says, advocate for your patients, and take these cases to court," said Kantor, in an interview before the three-hour workshop.
After a cursory look at the S.C. Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2009, she called it a "pretty good statute."
"The Harlick decision should be very useful for South Carolina. You guys are in pretty good shape," Kantor said.
Her workshop also addressed the role and status of the Federal Mental Health Parity Act, which deals with self-funded insurance plans.