Anthem, Mental Health’s Public Enemy No. 1, Called Out in “Denied”

Posted by on Dec 18, 2014

On Sunday, 60 Minutes ran a segment called “Denied” that investigated the routine practice of insurance companies to deny mentally ill patients the treatment their doctors prescribe. Since the segment premiered, multiple people have alerted me to the video or sent me links directly, as it is no secret by now that I am one of the thousands who have been and continue to be negatively impacted by insurance providers.

The clip was hard to watch. It opened with the story of Katherine West, who died at age 15 of bulimia (which caused heart failure) after being cut from her residential treatment program against the recommendations of her treatment team. Her insurance company? None other than Anthem (an “independent licensee” of Blue Cross Blue Shield), the very company that has skillfully made my already-difficult battle against anorexia somehow all the more torturous.

Anthem, Public Enemy No. 1 of Mental Health

Every day since viewing the segment, I have been tweeting at Anthem to try to elicit some comment or other about what one could possibly say in response to such flagrant disregard for human health and wellbeing. So far, I’ve gotten only two “responses”:




Admittedly, my relentless tweeting at probably constitutes spam. But seeing as I’m locked in YET ANOTHER battle with Anthem in an attempt to get coverage and reimbursement for thousands of dollars worth of nutritional services that I’ve paid out-of-pocket, I’m not feeling particularly docile.

And why should I? Anthem has effected major decisions about treatment this year, which have directly affected my health and wellbeing. I remember one morning while in partial hospitalization treatment, I was sitting at breakfast, staring at a half-eaten bowl of oatmeal, and crying to the therapist monitoring the meal that I didn’t know what to do. If I ate it and gained weight, would I be considered “too healthy”? If I didn’t eat and lost weight, would I be considered “unmotivated” or “noncompliant”?

No one deserves to endure so much fear and anxiety about their medical treatments. A cancer patient would never pull out her central line delivering chemotherapy because she feared that if she improved her insurance would no longer cover her treatment. Similarly, an insurance company like Anthem (presumably) wouldn’t end her chemotherapy halfway through the round just because she was showing some improvements.

Why is mental health different?

And when will Anthem, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and the others answer for their actions?

If I am going to continued to be denied the treatment I need, regardless of what my clinicians advise, then I at least want this from Anthem: I want someone to personally explain to me 1) how it is that they know better than my clinicians without having even met me, 2) what they would do if they were in my position, and 3) why it is that I (and others in similar situations) do not deserve quality care?


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