When Dawn Beye's daughter was diagnosed with anorexia six years ago, she thought things couldn't get much worse. Then they did: Beye's insurance company tried to use her sick child's online presence against her.
Beye's daughter was admitted to a treatment facility, at a cost of $1,500 a day. Beye, a New Jersey teacher, had insurance through Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield -- but her daughter's coverage ran out after just 30 days, because New Jersey considered eating disorders a "non-biologically based mental illness." Horizon did not respond to requests for comment.
Beye was in shock. "I had to beg, borrow and steal to keep her in the facility," she says. "I was opening up charge cards wherever I could. You get to a point of total desperation -- this is your child's life." Finally, Beye filed a lawsuit against Horizon, joining with several other families whose children had been denied coverage for treatment of eating disorders.
The case took a strange turn in late 2007: Horizon demanded access to the children's online journals and e-mails, as well as their Facebook and MySpace profiles, in an effort to prove the eating disorders weren't biologically based.
"I never dreamed that [online postings] could be used against my daughter," Beye says.
A magistrate ruled that the children's data must be turned over for discovery. In early 2008, Horizon complained that the deadline had come and gone -- and it hadn't received all of the information it had demanded. Soon after, the families' attorneys reached an out-of-court agreement with Horizon that the profiles would not have to be turned over, and in 2009, they settled the case.
Beye and the other families received back pay for their children's treatments -- and New Jersey became the 13th state to recognize eating disorders as a biologically based mental illness.
But Beye is still frustrated over the years it took to get coverage for her daughter, who again entered anorexia treatment in January. And she's angry about the toll the case took on her daughter: "She shouldn't have had to worry about being embarrassed by her old journals while she was trying to get better."
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