Eating Disorders: A Secret Disease
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Eating Disorders: A Secret Disease

Date: April 29, 2010
By: Alexandra Smoldt
State Capitol Bureau

Intro:  Insurance mandates rarely go over well, but one specific bill on eating disorders has a deeply personal side that leaves its mark on Missouri families across the state.
RunTime:  3:12
OutCue:  SOC

Wrap: John and Sandy Culp watched their daughter fight an eating disorder for 13 years.

Their beloved Laura was a go-getter.

Culp describes her as compassionate and a perfectionist.

In 2008, at 31-years-old, Laura was chasing her dreams half way across the world.

Actuality:  CULP4.WAV
Run Time:  00:15
Description: "What happens is this disease, it normally attacks ones that are very smart, and Laura was very intelligent and fought the disease for 13 years and had just gotten married to a young man in Paris, France and was living the dream and in 6 months the dream was done."

Laura died on May 2nd of complications related to anorexia.

The Culps immediatly flew to Paris, France where Laura had been living.

Just days later, they returned to Jefferson City to testify in a hearing for a bill that would mandate insurance coverage for eating disorders like Laura's.

This bill has appeared along with a slew of similar insurance mandates for various medical conditions.

But, advocates like bill sponsor Representative Rachel Storch, feel this issue is something especially pressing.

Actuality:  STORCH5.WAV
Run Time:  00:18
Description: "Many, many people deal with this on a lifelong basis. There's a very high mortality rate, higher than any other mental illness, between ten and twenty percent actually. And, the more I started reading about, I just realized that there's very disparate treatment in terms of how the insurance industry provide coverage for eating disorders."

The mortality rate is something most advocates point out about this disorder, and under the bill, early, prolonged treatment would be available.  

This would provide medical care before the problem spirals out of control.

Doctors say treatment within the first 6 months is essential.  

Families often get tied up in insurance policy when it comes to eating disorders.

They are a co-occurring condition- both a mental and physical disease.

Most policies don't cover this type of mental disorder, or they ignore recommendations from specialists.

Annie Seal, whose daughter is recovering from an eating disorder, has acted as a huge advocate of the bill.  

Actuality:  ASEAL2.WAV
Run Time:  00:10
Description: "This bill would take care of both of those. It would require insurance companies to provide coverage like a medical condition, and it would ensure that they comply with the APA's definition of eating disorders."

The bill also has an education piece that Seal feels is equally important.

Actuality:  ASEAL1.WAV
Run Time:  00:13
Description: "There's a lot of mythology and stigma around eating disorders. People believe they're a choice. People believe that they affect only wealthy, young girls. Um, this disease affects every race, every age, every socio-economic status."

Despite all of this personal testimony, there are those who still feel this bill is not economically sound.

Actuality:  PURG22.WAV
Run Time:  00:14
Description: "Well I think at a time when, when small businesses are getting their insurance rates raised all the time, that anything that adds to that is something that government should not be doing at this point, and any mandate regardless of what it is, is an added cost to business."

This eating disorders mandate is no doubt controversial, but it is also the life-blood of some Missourians who have loved and lost through the turmoil of eating disorders.

John Culp returned this year to speak to Senators again on the bill and he vows that he will keep coming back until Missouri takes action to make change.

Actuality:  CULP.WAV
Run Time:  00:08
Description: "That's just part of what we're trying to do, is help basically 250,000 people that sometimes they have no hope, and then trying to give people hope."

 Reporting from the State Capitol, I'm Alexandra Smoldt.