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One of the most significant barriers for those suffering from eating disorders (and other mental health illnesses) is obtaining insurance coverage for residential treatment. In the US, as many as 10 million females and 1 million males are suffering from eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, and tragically, anorexia has the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses. Eating disorders are complex, intricate, perplexing, all consuming, and life threating. Consequently, when insurance companies deny coverage for treatment, this exacerbates an already difficult endeavor- the challenging undertaking of recovery. Many people are left without treatment in dire health.

Lisa Kantor’s devotion to justice and advocacy for those with eating disorders led her to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where she won the milestone eating disorder case Harlick v. Blue Shield, recovering benefits for her client Jeanene Harlick and an 8 month stay in a residential facility. On August 26, 2011 the Ninth Circuit held that the California Mental Health Parity statute requires insurance plans to cover all medically necessary treatment for eating disorders. Additionally, Ms. Kantor won Burton v. Blue Shield, which required Blue Shield to pay for residential treatment of the plaintiff suffering from depressive disorder and panic disorder. “The Burton court is the first district court to cite Harlick as precedent,” said Ms. Kantor. “The court’s decisive approach in the Burton case, requiring residential treatment even though the policy expressly excluded coverage, is a clear indication of how district courts in California and hopefully around the country, will decide eating disorder cases against insurers.”

Ms. Kantor will share her experiences and opinions about eating disorder treatment and insurance issues at the iaedp Symposium 2012 preconference workshop. Her workshop, “Mental Health Parity: What does it Really Mean?”, will take place on March 21, at 1:00pm at the Charleston Marriott, and is available to Symposium attendees as well as the public. The cost for the 3 hour session is $95.