30 Jul 2012
La Grange woman to testify on eating disorders and insurance coverage
by Jane Michaels, La Grange Sun Times
LA GRANGE — La Grange resident Danielle Moles, who has battled an eating disorder for 15 years, wants to give others a fighting chance to get coverage in getting help.
The 32-year-old nurse plans to testify Aug. 6 at a congressional field hearing in Chicago on implementation of the Parity Act, a 2009 law to improve insurance coverage for such mental health issues as eating disorders and addictions.
Problems with the law remain, which Moles knows all too well. She received three months of treatment in a residential facility, and her insurance company was unwilling to pay the $90,000 cost, relenting after Moles said she sought approval for three years.
“Of all mental health illnesses, the No. 1 killer is eating disorders, but a high majority of insurance companies won’t pay for the treatment,” she said. “Maybe if we started giving appropriate treatment, the illness wouldn’t kill as many people.”
The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders estimates up to 24 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder. Of those with anorexia nervosa, about 4 percent will die, though the figure could be higher when the illness is considered as the cause of death, rather than resulting heart failure, suicide, organ failure or malnutrition.
Moles said she spent more than three years seeking authorization for residential treatment for anorexia nervosa, which has led to other complications, including infertility and miscarriage, seizures and memory problems. She also struggled to overcome compulsive exercising and related injuries.
“I had been in the hospital so many different times,” she said. “It was like putting a Band-Aid on a geyser. I’d get stable and do outpatient care over and over again.”
Without sustained, proper treatment, the effects of the illness have been devastating, Moles admits, on her personal life and finances. Her marriage ended in divorce, and the illness has taken a toll on her work history and job prospects, she said.
“My out-of-pocket treatment cost totals a couple hundred thousand dollars,” she said. “I had to liquidate my 401K.”
Moles said she feels compelled to share her story and campaign for change to benefit others. She estimates treatment for illness has cost nearly $500,000, including insurance coverage.
“I’m not the exception,” she said. “I’m one of many young professionals. There are accountants and people going for advanced degrees who are all into huge debt for treatment.”
Moles said it took more than a decade before she sought help.
“I kept it hidden I didn’t tell anyone about it. I always had an explanation about it,” she said. “Then my life blew up with a miscarriage and divorce. I couldn’t handle the eating disorder; it got so out of control and took over my life.”
But after a three-month stay at the Timberline Knolls treatment center in Lemont and six weeks at a transitional living facility, Moles said she is on the road to recovery, which is still a process. She hopes to eventually help others undergoing similar struggles.
Insurance companies “get what’s on paper, that the patient is depressed and weighs x pounds,” she said. “But they don’t understand the terror and horror the patient feels, how they can’t get out of bed today.
“It’s unconscionable the insurance companies decide ‘no, she’s not going to get that treatment,’” Moles said.
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