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Court Says Insurers Must Cover Treatment For Severe Mental Illness

Aired 6/6/12 on KPBS News.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has made a ruling that lays out what insurers must cover under the mental health parity law.

— The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued an important decision on California's mental health parity law. The ruling is the first to spell out what insurance companies are required to do.

The case involved a woman insured by Blue Shield. She was treated for anorexia in a residential program.

Blue Shield refused to pay for her care, saying residential treatment isn't listed in the Mental Health Parity Act.

The Ninth Circuit ruled the law requires insurers to pay for all medically necessary treatment for severe mental illness.

Patricia Sturdevant is a deputy commissioner with the California Department of Insurance. She said Blue Shield isn't the only company that's tried to dodge paying for mental health treatments.

"Despite the passage of the mental health parity law more than a decade ago, insurers have just been reluctant and resistant to complying," she explained.

Sturdevant pointed out consumers need to know insurers must cover treatment for severe mental illness, even if their policy excludes it.

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