New legislation improves insurance coverage for eating disorders

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JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Jay Nixon signed legislation Friday designed to improve insurance coverage for the treatment of eating disorders.

A licensed Professional Counselor at Lifesong, Rhonda Myers, said this will allow more people to feel comfortable seeking help.

"I think that we are not just looking at the number on the scale anymore or what weight we are at to be healthy," Myers said. "We're also looking at the balance that we need mentally to be healthy as well."

Myers said there are many different types of eating disorders that include binge eating, emotional eating, anorexia and bulimia. She said an average out-patient intensive treatment lasts around six months and costs around $600.

Myers said if more insurance companies cover eating disorder treatment, more people will feel comfortable getting coverage.

She said even for people that may see a jump in insurance bills, this is a community issue because most people have a personal connection to eating disorders.

Nixon said an estimated 202,000 Missourians suffer from an eating disorder. Nixon said this bill prevents insurance companies from denying coverage to a patient based solely on their weight and requires them to consider American Psychiatric Association's guidelines.

Myers said Lifesong expects to see an increase in patients because more people will be able to afford treatment.

"I think that insurance covering it gives them permission to seek out preventative care," Myers said.

Myers said she hopes this legislation encourages people to understand that an eating disorder is a mental health illness. She said Lifesong plans to add more workshops and expand its education spectrum in preparation for more patients.