One year ago today, on December 7, 2016, I had the humbling privilege of sitting in the balcony of the Senate’s Chamber with a small group of mental health advocates who nervously watched as votes tallied up on a bill that had been long in the making, the Anna Westin Act. On December 7, 2016, Congress made history by passing the 21st Century Cures Act which included the Anna Westin Act, the first-ever eating disorders specific bipartisan legislation to pass through Congress! The Anna Westin Act was named after Anna, the daughter of Mark and Kitty Westin, whose life was tragically cut short in 2000 due to anorexia. While the law will have a positive impact on over 30 million Americans who suffer from eating disorders, it will take time before the law’s language translates into daily-action. In the meantime, we unfortunately continue to witness tragic misperceptions about eating disorders.
Today, Retro Report released the video, Myths and Misconceptions about Eating Disorders, in which author Carrie Arnold shares her story about her personal battle with anorexia. Ms. Arnold also discusses the myths surrounding the disease that almost took her life, on more than one occasion. Retro Report’s video tells about Karen Carpenter, a singer who died on February 4, 1983, after a long battle with anorexia. This video is much needed. Eating disorders remain the number one killer of women ages 15-24, the deadliest of all mental illnesses, and affects people of all genders, all ages, all races, and all socioeconomic backgrounds – it is a disease that does not discriminate against its victims. And yet, eating disorders continue to suffer a seemingly enigmatic-perception that leaves many people thinking eating disorders are no big deal and that ‘everyone starves themselves from time to time.’ As a result, eating disorders often go undetected and untreated. We want that to stop. We want every person suffering to know that their suffering is not mythical or sublime. Suffering from an eating disorder is dangerous and those suffering deserve adequate and reputable treatment. If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder please know that there is hope for recovery and the ability to live a full life beyond the eating disorder.
You would think that in the nearly-25 years since Ms. Carpenter’s death, and nearly-18 years since Anna’s death, insurance companies would know that eating disorder sufferers are not suffering a disease of choice and that their treatment is not optional. You would think that by now, insurance companies would not deny someone medically necessary treatment claiming that they aren’t at serious risk of harm. Unfortunately, most insurance companies readily believe the myths and misconceptions highlighted by Retro Report. And that is why we do the work we do - because everyone deserves access to medically necessary treatment.
We encourage you to advocate with the Eating Disorders Coalition as they continue their work beyond the Anna Westin Act.
And, we encourage you that if you or someone you know has been denied insurance benefits for treatment, please call Kantor & Kantor for a free consultation at (877) 783-8686 or fill out our online contact form.