Obama signs Anna Westin Act to ensure health insurance coverage for eating disorders

Anna Westin was only 21 years old when she lost her five-year battle with anorexia in 2000.

The Chaska, Minnesota, native was told by her medical insurer she was ineligible for coverage because the disease was not “certified” for residential treatment.

Nearly 17 years later, her mother, Kitty Westin, celebrates a milestone in Anna’s honor. On Dec. 13, President Barack Obama signed the Anna Westin Act into law, which ensures health insurance coverage for residential treatment of eating disorders. The bipartisan bill was championed by Sen. Amy Klobuchar and was included in the 21st Century Cures Act.

On Sunday, Kitty Westin, families and those receiving treatment celebrated the act’s passage into law at the Anna Westin House in St. Paul.

“It’s certainly a sense of accomplishment,” said Kitty, who believes the law will save lives.

“There was no residential treatment - which is what Anna needed - anywhere in Minnesota,” said Dr. Jillian Lampert, chief strategist with The Emily Program, said.

At least 14.5 million people in the United States have some kind of eating disorder, whether it is anorexia or bulimia, Klobuchar said. In Minnesota alone, at least 200,000 people suffer from an eating disorder.

Thanks to the Anna Westin Act, those who need care will have inpatient and residential treatment covered by insurance, and healthcare professionals will receive expanded training on eating disorders.

“People will be more involved in helping them, and that’s just as important as getting insurance coverage,” Klobuchar told Fox 9.

Finally, Anna’s voice has been heard.

“I think about her, and I want her. I would do anything to bring her back, but I can’t do that so knowing that the passage of this bill and creating this Anna Westin House, that lives are being saved, it eases the pain,” Kitty Westin said.

More than 1,500 people have received treatment at the Anna Westin House since it opened in 2002.

Thirty million people experience an eating disorder in their lifetimes, according to the Eating Disorders Coalition. The EDC also reports anorexia has the highest mortality rate of all mental disorders.

Kitty foresees the Anna Westin Act decreasing these numbers significantly, so others no longer have to suffer like her daughter did.