UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT ISSUES SIGNIFICANT RULING ON CALIFORNIA’S MENTAL HEALTH PARITY ACT

Thanks to the excellent efforts of attorneys Lisa Kantor and Elizabeth Green of Kantor & Kantor, LLP, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal issued an important decision on August 26, 2011 favoring policyholders in California. The question before the court was whether or not Blue Shield was required to pay for plaintiff’s care at a residential treatment facility. The court held that although, technically, the terms of Jeanene Harlick’s health insurance policy with Blue Shield did not require coverage, the California Mental Health Parity Act absolutely did require Blue Shield to pay for treatment. Ms. Harlick has suffered from anorexia nervosa for more than 20 years. In 2006 and 2007 she spent time at a residential treatment facility in an effort to help her cope with her eating disorder. Blue Shield refused to pay the substantial cost for that treatment.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal’s opinion in Harlick is a major victory for all of those who are insured by Blue Shield of California and who suffer from eating disorders A stay in a residential facility that provides 24-hour supervision can be a crucial part of the successful treatment of an eating disorder. Almost all insurance companies that provide behavioral health benefits provide coverage for residential treatment. Blue Shield is one of the few insurers who exclude such treatment, while providing coverage for all other levels of care. The California Mental Health Parity Act requires insurance companies to provide coverage for the treatment of “severe mental illnesses,” including anorexia and bulimia, on the same terms and conditions as it does for physical illnesses. In its decision today, the Court held that the Mental Health Parity Act requires an insurer to provide all medically necessary treatment for eating disorders, including residential treatment, even if the insurance plan has an exclusion for that treatment.

The full text of the decision can be read by clicking here:

HARLICK v. BLUE SHIELD OF CALIFORNIA

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