On Sunday December 14, 2014, CBS’ 60 minutes reported on the tragic and avoidable death of 15 year old Katherine West. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/mental-illness-health-care-insurance-60-minutes/.
Katherine suffered from a severe eating disorder and major depression. She was admitted to Veritas Collaborative Eating Disorder Treatment Center (“Veritas”) in October 2013. Katherine was an insured under an Anthem health insurance plan. Initially, Anthem authorized her treatment. Six weeks later, however, despite protests from the treatment team which included a psychiatrist, a pediatrician, a psychologist, a dietitian, nurses and numerous other eating disorder professionals, Dr. Timothy Jack, a psychiatrist working for Anthem, who never met Katherine, denied any further treatment for her on the basis that it was not medically necessary. Her treatment team warned Dr. Jack that Katherine was not yet ready to discharge and that the likelihood of her purging again was extremely high. Dr. Jack and Anthem ignored this warning.
Unable to pay for Katherine’s continued treatment, which cost upwards of $1000 per day, Katherine’s parents were left with no choice but to take her home. Six days later, Katherine’s mother Nancy found her dead in her bed. She had died of heart failure due to complications from her purging which resumed after she left Veritas.
The 60 minutes segment highlighted that this unfair, and rather unbelievable practice of insurance companies. This is something that we, at Kantor & Kantor see day after day. Partner Lisa Kantor specializes in fighting for appropriate treatment for those suffering from eating disorders. http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/12/prweb12395807.htm
On December 16, 2014, following the 60 minutes segment, former Senator Patrick Kennedy spoke about the tragedies that arise when insurance companies wrongfully deny patients the mental health treatment that they need. https://www.thekennedyforum.org/news/patrick-kennedy-responds-to-60-minutes-segment-on-mental-health.
Members of the Parity Implementation Coalition applauded the segment in a press release issued yesterday. http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/12/prweb12396991.htm.
Andrew Sperling, Director of Federal Advocacy for the National Alliance on Mental Illness also came out in support of the segment: “Our members stand with the millions of individuals and families who face insurance discrimination as a result of living with a mental or addictive disorder.”
Outraged, the public has taken to social media to condemn Dr. Jack and Anthem. While Dr. Jack’s actions are reprehensible, his compensation from Anthem, estimated at roughly $25,000 per month and a denial rate for treatment of 92% suggests that he doing exactly what he is paid to do.
Some 24 million people, or 7.6% of the United States population, suffer from an eating disorder. As highlighted by this story, eating disorders kill. In fact, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder. http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/.
If you or someone close to you is suffering from an eating disorder, we encourage you to seek help immediately. If you or someone you know are having trouble getting your insurance company to pay for your treatments or other benefits, call us for a free consultation. 800-569-6013