The cost of treatment for eating disorders is leaving patients tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket, with many going into debt to fund their treatment.
Now the Butterfly Foundation, a non-profit support group for people with eating disorders, is calling on the Government to fully fund treatment through Medicare.
Medicare currently provides limited funding for the treatment of eating disorders.
“Eating disorders are amongst the most serious of all psychiatric conditions,” clinical psychologist Chris Thornton said. “If we take something like anorexia nervosa, it has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness. “And if we look at statistics on suicide, more patients with anorexia are likely to commit suicide than patients with a diagnosis of depression.”
Fiona Wright is 34. She’s one of more than a million Australians living with an eating disorder. When she finally admitted she needed help and turned to the public health system for support, she was shocked by what she found. “Before I got sick I always had this idea that people who get sick are taken care of,” she told 7.30. “And it was such a sharp and steep learning curve to discover that really isn’t the case.
“When I was at my lowest weight and was added to the waiting list for hospitalisation in the public system, that waiting list was 52 weeks long.
“It is woefully inadequate.
“There are public services that exist but they are incredibly underfunded and under resourced.”The Government’s mental health care plan provides Medicare rebates for 10 sessions with a specialist, but after that the public funds dry up.
As a result, Ms Wright has paid for most of her treatment out of her own pocket. “I’ve crunched the numbers and it turns out over seven or eight years I spent $75,000 on specialists,” she said. “And that doesn’t count private health insurance premiums or medications — that’s extra.” “I am a lot better than I was. I am still not well, but without that treatment I am sure I would have died.”
Mr Thornton says the 10 sessions covered by Medicare is not enough.
“Evidence tells us patients with bulimia, or binge eating, or a young person with anorexia, need a minimum of 20 sessions,” he said.
“An adult with anorexia nervosa, particularly if they’ve had it for a long time, the treatments we offer are 40 sessions.”
If you or anyone you know needs help with an eating disorder:
- Butterfly Foundation on 1800 33 4673
- National Eating Disorders Collaboration
- Lifeline on 13 11 14
- Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
- MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
- Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
- Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36
- Headspace on 1800 650 890
Originally Published by ABC News, continue reading here.