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Improved Eating Disorder Treatment Coverage: New Legislation

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This past July, new legislation designed to aid people with eating disorders was submitted by a group of women Senators. It is called the Anna Westin Act of 2015.

The bipartisan bill, if enacted, will improve treatment coverage of eating disorders. It also calls for the training of health professionals and school staff in identifying eating disorder symptoms for early intervention.

“Millions of Americans are affected by the crippling symptoms of eating disorders but very few get the proper help they need, leading anorexia to have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar. “Whether that is due to late detection or insufficient insurance coverage, we should be doing more to give patients like Anna the tools they need to overcome these diseases.”

Saving Lives

This new legislation is named after Anna Westin, a Minnesotan who at 16 was diagnosed with anorexia. Returning home following her sophomore year of college it was obvious to Anna’s parents that the anorexia was severe, but Anna’s insurance company declined to pay for doctor recommended inpatient treatment. Anna subsequently lost her life to the disorder.

The Anna Westin Act of 2015 will clarify the intent of the earlier Parity Law (Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008) that requires insurance providers to give equal coverage for mental illnesses as for other health problems. This clarification is vital since eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses.

A similar version of this bill was introduced in the House of Representatives last May.

The Three Ts

Because recovery from eating disorders is possible when symptoms are recognized early and addressed, the Anna Westin Act focuses on three Ts: training, treatment, and truth in advertising.

  • Training. With funding from NIMH and SAMHSA, health professionals, school personnel, and the public will be trained to identify signs of eating disorders, to intervene early, and discourage behaviors that can lead to eating disorders.
  • Treatment The act clarifies that the Parity Law includes residential treatment coverage for eating disorders—the same benefit afforded other illnesses.
  • Truth in Advertising. In the House version, the FTC will study and report on whether regulations should be put in place regarding digitally altered images of people in advertising, and if so, provide strategies to accomplish it.

To advocate for the Anna Westin Act (H.R. 2515, S. 1865) click the “advocate for Anna Westin Act” link below.

Sources: advocate for Anna Westin Act; Eating Disorders Coalition; EDC Fact Sheet; EDC Press Release
Photo credit: Phil Roeder