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Of all mental illnesses, the highest number of fatalities comes from eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. However, eating disorders are often ignored by insurance companies or only given partial coverage. Because anorexia and bulimia have so little coverage, Representative Rick Stream, who represents the city of Kirkwood in Missouri, is working to push legislation to have insurance companies provide complete coverage to patients suffering from eating disorders.

Studies are showing that women over 40 years old and young men are two groups that report increased instances of eating disorders every year. In addition to personal health issues, eating disorders affect entire families, which is why Stream believes that insurance companies should completely cover patients’ treatment for an eating disorder. He also stated that treating an eating disorder is much more cost-effective because the health issues that accompany a disorder such as bulimia or anorexia – including osteoporosis, kidney failure and heart disease -- can be much more costly than an eating disorder treatment program.

Stream, who has been fighting for this insurance reform for the past four years, has daughter who passed away because of anorexia 21 years ago. In addition to handling an eating disorder within his own family, he has worked to increase awareness, family support systems and eating disorder education throughout Missouri. Stream’s proposed legislation would require insurance companies to provide complete coverage for eating disorder treatments. It is also thanks to Stream that the Missouri Eating Disorder Council was formed, which allows the state to conduct studies and research on eating disorders.

Advocates of Stream’s insurance reform program have been closely studying the repercussions of the Autism Insurance Reform, which has increased therapists for families with autistic children without causing a huge impact on health insurance pricing. By following in the footsteps of the autism program, Stream and other supporters of his reform hope to have eating disorders receive more funding as well as have insurance cover the costs of treatments.