Missouri May Expand Health Benefits For Americans Struggling With Eating Disorders

Missourinet reports that state Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg) has introduced a bill into committee that would “mandate health insurance coverage for Missourians with eating disorders that would cover the diagnosis and treatment of the eating disorder as well as residential, medical, and psychiatric treatment.”

While Pearce’s proposal is capped at $30,000 per beneficiary — to be paid for out of the state’s general fund — it still represents one of the most comprehensive approaches to addressing a public health concern that often goes ignored:

Pearce says funding for the coverage would stem from the state’s heath plan. “The funding, I would assume would come from general revenue. A lot of this would be done by the Missouri consolidated health plan,” he said. “So a lot of that could be taken from existing information, statistics, that the state already has.”

Pearce says that by having this coverage, it can ward off the possibility of long-term hospital stays, or even death, by posing the questions, how much money can be saved in the long run and how many lives can be saved? “Eating disorders is treatable if it’s caught early,” he said. “And how we can save lives and improve the lives of folks, and yet, if we don’t catch it early eating disorders has the number one fatality of all mental illnesses.”

Pearce rightfully calls eating disorders what they are — mental illnesses — but it’s a bit more complicated than that. Eating disorders are extraordinarily complex conditions to treat, as effective regimens address the intertwining physical and mental components of the disease. That’s easier said than done in a health care system that does not assume parity between mental services and more “traditional” treatments. And while Obamacare will require insurance plans to offer some form of mental health coverage as one of its “essential health benefits,” states still have most of the discretion when it comes to determining how generous those benefits will be.


That’s also what makes Pearce’s bill important. Lack of adequate funding for comprehensive eating disorder coverage prevents nine out of ten Americans suffering from the condition from receiving treatment — $30,000 in comprehensive benefits could significantly shift that dynamic in Missouri.