Many of you reading this have been involved in advocacy with the Eating Disorders Coalition "through the years" as we advocated for the passage of "Mental Health Parity". Those of you familiar with the bill know that the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act PASSED on October 3, 2008!! And those of you who have advocated with the EDC for the passage of "Mental Health Parity" know just what an enormous victory this was for those affected by mental illness. In short, the mental health parity legislation that was signed into law provides equity between medical/surgical benefits and mental health and addiction benefits (in health care plans that already offer mental health coverage), and many "loopholes" from the previous 1996 Parity Act were closed.
Yesterday we posted a blog that shared a summary of the "Parity Regulations" (they were just released on February 2, 2010). ~ We are thrilled with what the regulations assert. And we know that millions WILL benefit from the wise decision of Congress to pass, and the President to sign into law, the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act ("MH Parity").
While we deeply support the MH parity bill that passed, we know that there is still much to be done to assure that those affected by eating and body image disorders receive fair and equitable treatment, and coverage of that treatment. You see, in the MH Parity bill that passed, eating disorders are still not specifically covered, as well as, eating disorders can actually still be excluded from insurance plans.
That is why we need you, now more than ever, to come to our EDC Lobby Day in April to advocate for the FREED Act!! (register here: http://www.eatingdisorderscoalition.org/LobbyDayApril2010.htm)
Mental Health Parity passed after years of dedicated and persistent advocacy, strength in numbers, and the ultimate display of courage those affected by mental illness demonstrated time and time again by coming forward to the Hill to advocate for EQUAL TREATMENT and an end to discrimination against them for suffering a mental health illness. It is time for those affected by eating and body image disorders (including parents, care-givers, treatment providers, sufferers, friends, family, etc.) to COME forward in bold numbers and in collective voice to advocate for the FREED Act!! Without YOUR voice, we are less visible, and we risk what happens when those who suffer are silent: nothing. We can no longer afford to be silent about these deadly and life-devastating disorders --any of you who work in the field or who are affected day in and day out by these insidious disorders know that we can no longer remain silent. The avenue to raising the issue of eating disorders on the Federal level is the FREED Act. YOU CAN make a difference in helping to pass FREED! We need you to help make a difference --please don't assume that others will come to Lobby Day and you don't need to be there. We need every voice --including yours! ~ Again, you can register for Lobby Day at:
If you have any questions about Lobby Day or the FREED Act, please do not hesitate to contact me or any of the EDC staff. ~ I hope to see you each on the Hill in April. The FREED Act needs you! ~ peace from snowy DC, Kathleen
A Brief Summary of the FREED Act:
When passed into law, the FREED Act will benefit those affected by eating disorders in three major and necessary ways --through Research, Treatment and Education and Prevention Initiatives.
In brief, the FREED Act (HR 1193) provides for:
Research Initiatives: Determine the prevalence, incidence, and correlates of all eating disorders (anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and eating disorder not otherwise specified'; know the death rates, determine the morbidity and mortality rates associated with all eating disorders and provide a public report of this data annually; know the costs or “economic burden” of eating disorders; undertake the necessary investigations to conduct an economic analysis of the costs of eating disorders in the United States, including years of productive life lost, missed days of work, reduced work productivity, costs of medical/psychiatric treatment, prescriptions medications, hospitalizations, costs of medical and psychiatric comorbidities, (cost to family, cost to society) etc; establish Centers of Excellence. Develop an integrated system of Centers of Excellence for eating disorders, which will provide training opportunities for research, fund research programs, and coordinate the development of a research infrastructure nationwide.
Access to Adequate and Appropriate Treatment: Any insurer that provides health coverage for physical illness must provide coverage for eating disorders; care according to universally accepted criteria. Insurers are to follow standards of care as written in the Practice Guidelines for the Treatment of Patients with Eating Disorders by the American Psychiatric Association; the treatment setting must be appropriate to the patient’s needs and clinical presentation; decisions regarding the treatment setting must include individual variables such as age, sex, ability to manage severity or co-morbidity, family involvement, and staff expertise and training; Eating Disorders are complex conditions and require comprehensive treatment approaches --all treatment modalities should be covered, including but not limited to family, individual and group therapies, nutrition counseling, psychopharmacology, body Image therapy, and medical treatment.
Education & Prevention Initiatives: Study mandatory BMI reporting in school (determine the outcome of measuring BMI in schools and reporting the results to parents (including measuring eating disorders symptoms, and incidence of teasing or bullying based on body size)); establish a Grant Program for the Education and Training for all Health Professionals; train health professionals, to identify, prevent, appropriately treat and address the complications of eating disorders (using a team approach); establish a Grant Program for the Education and Training for School/Higher Education Professionals; train education professionals in evidence-based education programs about eating disorders, education professionals include teachers, professors, school nurses, school aides, community liaisons, cooks, dieticians, social workers, counselors, coaches, athletic departments, and other; educate the public through Public Service Announcements (PSAs); use PSAs to educate the public on types and the seriousness of (prevalence, comorbidities, health consequences –both physical and mental) eating disorders, how to obtain help, discrimination and bullying based on mental illness, body size, and the effects of media on self esteem and body image; bring eating disorders into already existing obesity initiatives (federally funded campaigns to fight obesity should also address eating disorders, and federal studies should include eating disorder related questions).
(to read the entirety of the bill, please go to: www.thomas.gov and enter bill number HR1193)