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Court Upholds Decision on Anorexia Treatment, Mental Health Parity

The court upheld its decision on coverage for anorexia (Flickr/Rega Photography)

A closely watched case testing California’s Mental Health Parity law has withstood a call for a rehearing.

The Courthouse News Service reports that this week the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld its decision from August 2011 requiring Blue Shield to cover one woman’s treatment for anorexia under state law, even though it wasn’t spelled out in her policy.

The 9th Circuit refused Monday to reconsider a ruling ordering Blue Shield of California to pay for a severely anorexic woman’s long stay in a residential treatment facility, despite a strong dissent by one judge.

A three-judge panel of the San Francisco-based federal appeals panel ruled last year that California’s mental-health parity law required Blue Shield to pay for Jeanene Harlick’s nine-month stay in Missouri’s Castlewood Treatment Center.

But the court did fiddle with one aspect of their original stance and reinterpreted some of the regulatory wording. While that didn’t change things for the majority, the dissenting judge, Judge N.R. Smith wrote, “despite this significant change in our textual interpretation, the majority remains convinced that our original interpretation of the Parity Act was still correct based on conflicting legislative history and ‘common sense.’ I see it differently and am surprised by the majority’s conclusion.”

Harlick’s attorney Lisa Kantor said the decision was only good news for her client. “This is going to have far reaching implications for anyone who suffers from a severe mental illness,” Kantor said. “Because the decisions clearly states that all medically necessary treatment must be covered for those who suffer from those enumerated mental illnesses.”

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