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Obama Signs Act to Ensure Health Insurance Coverage for Eating Disorders

Obama Signs Act to Ensure Health Insurance Coverage for Eating Disorders

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In 2000, a woman by the name of Anna Westin passed away from a five-year battle with anorexia. Sadly, right before her untimely death, Westin was denied medical coverage for eating disorder treatment because her disease was deemed not “certified” for residential treatment.

Fortunately, things have finally changed. Now, nearly 17 years after Anna Westin’s death, President Barack Obama has signed the Anna Westin Act into law. The act ensures health insurance coverage for residential treatment of eating disorders. The bipartisan bill was championed by Sen. Amy Klobuchar and was included in the 21st Century Cures Act.

Anorexia is a devastating disorder that is growing in numbers each year. At least 14.5 million people in the United States have some kind of eating disorder, whether it is anorexia or bulimia. In Minnesota alone, it is estimated that 200,000 people suffer from an eating disorder.

Thanks to the Anna Westin Act, those struggling with severe eating disorder will have better access to inpatient treatment.

“I think about her, and I want her. I would do anything to bring her back, but I can’t do that so knowing that the passage of this bill and creating this Anna Westin House, that lives are being saved, it eases the pain,” Kitty Westin said.

On Sunday, mother Kitty Westin and family of Anna Westin celebrated the act’s passage into law at the Anna Westin House in St. Paul. She believes the law will save lives.

“It’s certainly a sense of accomplishment,” said Kitty.

The Anna Westin Act will allow those who need the care to get that care with insurance coverage. In the past, treatment for eating disorders was often not covered by insurance.  Finally, Anna’s voice has been heard.

The Anna Westin House is a treatment facility for those struggling with eating disorder. More than 1,500 people have received treatment since it opened in 2002. Thirty million people experience an eating disorder in their lifetimes, according to the Eating Disorders Coalitions. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate among all eating disorders.

The Anna Westin Act will help decrease these numbers significantly, so other do not have to suffer like Anna Westin did. No one should be denied treatment because of misinformation. Anorexia is a serious disorder with life-threatening consequences if left untreated. It should be treated like any other disorder when it comes to medical coverage.

Why Anorexia is Difficult to Treat

Anorexia nervosa is a mental health condition that involves self-induced periods of starvation. Over time, the body is deprived of essential nutrients it needs to function optimally. Thus, the body starts to shut down in order to conserve energy.

The side effects of anorexia vary from:

  • Abnormally slow heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Reduction of bone density (osteoporosis), which results in dry, brittle bones.
  • Muscle loss and weakness.
  • Severe dehydration, which can result in kidney failure.
  • Fainting, fatigue, and overall weakness.
  • Dry hair and skin; hair loss is common.

The media often makes anorexia seem like a diet fad, but that is far from the case. Anorexia is a mental illness that needs treatment in the same way that other mental illnesses need professional treatment. Those with anorexia are not able to eat even if they wanted to.

After prolonged anorexia, a person’s body will develop a resistance to food. It will be difficult for the body to recover if treatment is not addressed in the earlier stages.  Mentally, the mind and body become accustom to certain routines and eating patterns. It eventually becomes difficult to shift the mindset onto a more normal eating regiment after a long period of time. This explains why some anorexic patients are not able to resume eating even when the body is shutting down.

The act signed by President Barack Obama will increase patient access to eating disorder recovery. Should more states consider implementing a similar act? Regardless, if you or anyone you know is struggling with mental illness, eating disorders, or addiction, call now. If you or anyone you know is struggling with substance use disorder or mental illness, please call toll-free 1-800-777-9588.

Author: Shernide Delva

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