Mental illness affects millions of people across the world and is listed second in the burden of disease rankings, coming in just behind cardiovascular conditions. Additionally, mental illness can lead to the inability to work or even function and accomplish daily living activities. However, some insurance companies don’t seem to understand the gravity of mental illness and refuse to cover treatments. However, a recent court ruling could soon change the rules to make insurance companies cover mental illnesses, as well as physical maladies–at least in California. According to the California state Mental Health Parity Act, insurers must provide the same coverage for severe mental disorders that they do for physical ailments.
The ruling came about after Jeanene Harlick, a Northern California woman, was treated at a Missouri residential treatment center for her Anorexia. She incurred ten months of room and board expenses as well as mental health help during her treatment, but Blue Cross Blue Shield of California refused to pay. However, a federal appeals court ruled that Harlick’s treatment was medically necessary and that under the Mental Health Parity Act, Blue Cross should pay.
Harlick has suffered from Anorexia for more than 20 years and her doctors ordered her into treatment for her eating disorder after her body weight fell to 65% below her ideal–a condition that led to the insertion of a feeding tube immediately upon her arrival to the treatment center. For people like Harlick who suffer from grave mental illnesses, having insurance coverage could mean the difference between life or death. The Mental Health Parity Act also requires insurance companies to cover 8 additional mental illnesses including schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, autism, and serious emotional disturbances in children and adolescents. A spokesman for BCBS recently stated that the company is still reviewing the court’s decision.
recently named in the 2009 edition of Best Lawyer's In America, David Mittleman has been representing seriously injured people since 1985. A partner with Church Wyble PC—a division of Grewal Law PLLC—Mr. Mittleman and his partners focus on medical malpractice, wrongful death, car accidents, slip and falls, nursing home injury, pharmacy/pharmacist negligence and disability claims.