Money, Power, and Eating Disorder Justice

Posted by on Mar 16, 2015

I’m a bit late in writing this, as it has been an up-and-down sort of week. Better late than never, right?

Last Wednesday I had the totally awesome experience of joining members of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) for Mental Health Matters Day in Albany. We met with legislators and their staff to advocate on behalf of important eating disorder issues, especially matters of justice and accessing treatment.

Specifically, we were asking 1) to help close the gap between so-called mental health parity justice and what insurers REALLY end up covering for mental health (i.e., not much); 2) support eating disorder screening in school settings so that eating issues can be caught early; and 3) restore funding for Comprehensive Care Centers for Eating Disorders in New York State, which are doing great work in the specialized treatment of eating disorders.

Legislators: These are “common sense” issues

By and large, the legislators were very supportive of what we were asking for. Some went so far as to say that these are “common sense” issues, and that of course people should have access to treatment if they are sick, simply as a matter of justice. (Thank you Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages!)

My fellow lobbyers and me with Asm. Michaelle Solages, advocating for eating disorder justice

My fellow lobbyers and me with Asm. Michaelle Solages.

From a personal stance, it was a day of sundry emotions. On the one hand, it was exhilarating. This was my second time lobbying, and both times have been profoundly satisfying. I am able to articulate eating disorder issues from a first-hand perspective, and it allows me to own my voice on the matter — a voice that was silent for far too many years. And it was really wonderful to meet members of the NEDA staff, who are bright, passionate young women on a mission to get justice for eating disorder sufferers and their loved ones.

On the other hand, I couldn’t help but feel a bit deflated at the end of it all. It is crystal clear that we as advocates are asking for help in improving countless lives, and it is equally clear that our representatives in office agree with us from a moral standpoint and want to do everything in their power to help.

But that’s just it — I worry their power doesn’t extend far enough. The insurance industry has hundreds of lobbyists fighting for their interests. NEDA has been able to hire one professional lobbyist through generous donations. That one lobbyist has done wonders, but I can’t help but feel pessimistic as I think of that one against hundreds.

Power, money, and justice

Insurance companies have the money. Whoever has the money has the power. And power can easily outdo justice. I worry that any legislation we try to get passed will ultimately be subjected to a final edit by the insurance industry. And their interests always trump those of patients.

Of course, that doesn’t mean there is no hope. After all, if during treatment I had put my faith on the ostensibly more powerful side, I never would have recovered from my eating disorder, which is as powerful as any wealthy corporation. I’ve witnessed what an unrelenting grain of hope can do even in the worst conditions.

So we keep fighting. Next up is the Eating Disorders Coalition spring Lobby Day on May 13 in Washington, D.C.!

Justice — #TheTimeIsNow

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