California Ruling: Mental Illness Should Be Better Covered By Medical Insurers

A court ruling in California has found that a woman who was treated for anorexia at a mental health facility should have her expenses covered by her medical insurance provider, a ruling that could have ramifications throughout the United States.

Under her policy with Blue Shield of California Jeanene Harlick’s plan excluded coverage for residential care, room and board for her 10 month treatment at Castlewood Treatment Center in 2006, however the Mental Health Parity Act states that the same coverage must be provided for severe mental disorders as they do physical ailments said a three-judge panel for the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday.

According to court notes, Harlick, 37, has suffered from anorexia for more than 20 years, while her doctors recommended the Missouri program when her body weight fell below 65% of ideal, leading to the use of a feeding tube just one month after she arrived at the facility.

In the court ruling it was noted that insurance plans:

“Must provide coverage of all ‘medically necessary treatment’ for nine enumerated ‘severe mental illnesses.”

In their ruling the judges listed the following disorders as covered:

Eating disorders, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, autism, and serious emotional disturbances in children and adolescents.

Blue Cross of California is reviewing the appeals process for the case and still attempting to determine how it will affect their 3.5 million policyholders in the state.

Blue Cross may choose to appeal the case which could place it in front of a full 11-judge rehearing or possibly a case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.