When Your Child Has to Travel Thousands of Miles for Eating Disorder Treatment - From "The Mighty"

For a family, having a child away in residential treatment is stressful, isolating and scary. You do it however, because it literally can be a matter of life or death for an patient with anorexia. This is the world we live when insurance is paying the bill. As I comprehend all of this, my mind shifts and I begin to face the stark reality the world has gone on without my son in it. His friends are living carefree and moving ahead in their lives as he is fighting for his.

I hit a brick wall today, not literally, but figuratively. It was a mental brick wall some may liken to a mental meltdown. Today, marked the 70th day my 15-year-old son has been thousands of miles away from home in a residential treatment center in Denver for a relapse from his eating disorder. Unfortunately, for adolescent males the options for residential treatment programs are slim. My husband and I sent him back to the center which he had stayed in two years prior. I would like to say it was a tough choice, but when faced with seeing your child stare life or death in the face, there really isn’t a choice to be made at all. 

It seems strange to me today of all days I had my breakdown. Overall, I had been coping relatively well with his absence. I had settled into the uncomfortable quiet a house minus one teenage boy starts to possess. The reality of the impact an eating disorder has on a family hit me in the face like a gale force wind.

The day kicked off with us being told by my son’s doctor our insurance company has decided to no longer pay for his residential treatment. They feel based on their medical criteria, he is ready for the next step. As I hear these words I am infuriated, mad and worried. It is so frustrating to think they know what’s in the best interest of my son. The insurance company has decided it is time for him to transition or step down into a 12-hour day, partial, outpatient, treatment program. While this step will be necessary for his ultimate success, taking him out of residential programming now, when he is so close to the finish line, could be catastrophic.

This is the world we live when insurance is paying the bill. This phenomenon is not limited to eating disorders. It can be seen with any major illness. When it is your child it becomes scary. Unconscionable decisions such as this get made every day. To think they would come this far and pay close to $100,000 dollars and then not be willing to pay for the last 12 days of treatment is inconceivable. They would rather take the risk and cut off the funding, betting against the medical professional’s advice. Yet, if your child is released too soon, the revolving door syndrome begins when another costly relapse can occur. Ultimately, they could pay double for a patient’s treatment. Unfortunately, that is not how the actuaries calculate their costs and how the insurance companies make their decisions. They have boxes they check and criteria they use that can defy logic.

For a family, having a child away in residential treatment is stressful, isolating and scary. You do it however, because

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