Missouri lawmakers advance eating disorder legislation

Former Miss America addresses issue

Former Miss America 2008, Kirsten Haglund, spoke to supporters gathered at the Missouri Capitol building in Jefferson City on Thursday. An eating disorder survivor, she travels the country speaking about eating disorder awareness and the need for insurance reform to get better coverage for the treatment of such disorders.

Former Miss America 2008, Kirsten Haglund, spoke to supporters gathered at the Missouri Capitol building in Jefferson City on Thursday. An eating disorder survivor, she travels the country speaking about eating disorder awareness and the need for insurance reform to get better coverage for the treatment of such disorders. Photo by Deborah Cote.

The same day eating disorder advocates visited the Missouri Capitol to lobby legislators, a bill passed the Senate floor that would require a study to identify the costs associated with eating disorder insurance reform.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. David Pearce, R- Warrensburg, passed the Senate on Thursday by a 32-2 vote and will now move to the House. A bill to provide health insurance coverage for eating disorders has also been filed in the Senate, as well as two similar bills in the House.

Miss America 2008, Kirsten Haglund, spoke in the Capitol Rotunda of the importance of passing such legislation. She struggled with an eating disorder starting at age 12 and throughout her teen years. Her family experienced firsthand the struggle of insurance not covering therapy and nutritionists.

Haglund said she is proof that good treatment does work.

“I got treatment not only for my body, but for my soul,” she said. “That’s why insurance reform is necessary.”

Annie Seal, vice president of the Missouri Eating Disorders Association, said eating disorder insurance reform is necessary because eating disorders affect more than 500,000 Missourians.

She said treatment is highly effective, but insurance doesn’t cover all parts of treatment. An insurance reform bill would change that.

“This is not a choice,” Seal said of eating disorders. “It’s a serious illness and if left untreated, results in chronic illnesses and even death.”

Haglund has been recovered from her disorder for seven years and she’s no longer afraid of it stealing her life. She said that’s not the result for everyone.

“This (bill) is good for everyone,” she said. “This makes sense for everyone. It’s life-giving and life-creating.”

Accompanying photo: Kirsten Haglund

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