March 07--WARRENSBURG -- A bill to require an actuarial study on the cost of mandating insurance coverage for eating disorders passed out of the Senate Small Business, Insurance and Industry Committee.
Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, sponsor of Senate Bill 161, said the bill now will go to the Senate floor for debate and could be voted on next week.
The study will be done by the Oversight Committee on Legislative Research with a Dec. 31 completion date.
"We obviously want it done as quickly as possible," he said.
Pearce said he does not expect the cost to reach $30,000. He said the study will provide an objective evaluation into benefits versus costs of mandated insurance for eating disorders.
"The problem now is (patients) don't get treatment until they have secondary issues," such as organs shutting down, he said.
The study will indicate if early intervention will save money and lives.
Pearce said Missouri is a pioneer in the issue and the American Eating Disorders Association "is looking to us as a role model."
Pearce serves on the 19-member Missouri Eating Disorders Council, created in 2010, which met for the first time in January. Paul Polychronis, assistant director of the University Health Services for Counseling and Psychological Services at the University of Central Missouri, also is on the council.
Pearce said council members are "thrilled" Senate Bill 161 got voted out of committee.
"It's a step in the right direction," he said.
The council consists of medical professionals, lawmakers, educators, people suffering from eating disorders and representatives of government offices. The mission is to bring awareness to eating disorders and advocate for research and services.
The actuarial study will "build the case" for mandated insurance coverage, Pearce said.
Pearce also filed Senate Bill 161, which would mandate insurance coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of eating disorders, but said passage "will be a long, protracted effort." The bill had a hearing before the Small Business, Insurance and Industry Committee, but no action followed.
Pearce said lack of insurance coverage contributed to closing an eating disorders treatment center in Kansas City. St. Louis now has the only one in the state.
Pearce said eating disorders affect about 250,000 Missourians every year. Missouri Eating Disorders Council President Annie Seal said the disorders are mental and physical, and the complications make the disorder the most fatal of all mental illnesses. She said 60 days of intense treatment costs an estimated $81,000. Failure to provide treatment costs $240,000 due to serious medical conditions that result from the disorders, she said. The cost excludes ongoing, long-term treatments required for lifelong medical conditions.
"It is 241 percent more expensive not to provide eating disorders treatment," she said.
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