In The Cockroach Catcher, in the opening chapter I recalled an Anorexia Nervosa patient that has been “dumped” by her Private Health Insurer.
Girl in a Chemise circa 1905 Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
This patient’s father works for a medical supplies company that continued to insure the family. Even then the Health Insurer chose to limit her treatment to 18 months.
Why? Because there is a safety net: The NHS.
Health Insurers write their own rules.
Why? Because there is a safety net: The NHS
“….Ethics in medicine has of course changed because money is now involved and big money too. What was in dispute in this case was that the private health insurance that sustained Candy through the last eighteen months had dried out. The private hospital then tried to get the NHS to continue to pay for the service on the ground that Candy’s life would otherwise be in danger. The cost was around seven hundred pounds a night….’
Let us not forget that many private hospitals can make more money from the NHS because the NHS does not exclude. The NHS pay for everything including those Private Health Insurers chose to exclude.
“……A quick calculation gave me a figure of over a quarter of a million pounds per year at the private hospital. No wonder they were not happy to have her transferred out. Before my taking up the post, there were at one time seven patients placed by the Health Authorities at the same private hospital. Not all of them for Anorexia Nervosa, but Anorexia Nervosa required the longest stay and drained the most money from any Health Authority. I have seen private hospitals springing up for the sole purpose of admitting anorectic patients and nobody else. It is a multi-million pound business. Some of these clinics even managed to get into broadsheet Sunday supplements. I think Anorexia Nervosa Hospitals are fast acquiring the status of private Rehab Centres. Until the government legislates to prevent health insurers from not funding long term psychiatric cases, Health Authorities all over the country will continue to pick up the tabs for such costly treatments……”
I did not agree to that patient staying on at the private hospital paid for by the NHS. That hospital did not like me!!!
The Obama Health reform is dealing a big blow to Health Insurers as by 2014 they will have to take all comers and cannot exclude pre-existing conditions not to say dumping someone like my Anorexia Nervosa patient. Until then, the State or the Federal Government steps in.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of
, a Republican gave a rousing endorsement of President Obama’s health plan. New York Times reported today. California
The new government in a week’s time should take the first step in legislating against Health Insurers “dumping” patients because of psychiatric diagnosis or so called chronic conditions. That way, private hospitals and insurers can fight it out amongst themselves. At least the small pot of NHS cash would be safe. That would be a first step.
I doubt if any government would follow Obama’s extremely courageous move of legislating against excluding pre-existing conditions but we could watch what happens in a few year’s time. If we can at least secure the position of those already insured we could save the NHS a great deal of money.
we have a safety net: the NHS. US
Let us protect it.
Summary of a popular post:
We could legislate that Insurers will have to pay for any NHS treatment for those covered by them. It will stop Insurers “gaming” NHS hospitals. This will prevent them saving on costly dialysis and Intensive Care. Legislate for full disclosure of Insured status.
Insurers cannot drop coverage or treatment after a set period and even if they do they will still be charged if the patient is transferred to an NHS Hospital.
This will eliminate problems like PIP breast implants.
It will indeed encourage those that could afford it to buy insurance and in any case most firms offer insurance for their employees including the GMC.
To prevent gaming of Insurers by individual patients (I look after their interest too), the medical fee should be paid up front by the patient and then deduction taken from premiums. Corporate clients like those with the GMC should not be gaming Insurers.
Imagine the situation where those with “individual personalised budget” being able to “buy” their own insurance!
In fact, to save money, government can buy insurance for the mental patients and the chronically ill.
This way their will be real choice and insurers will be competing with each other to provide the worst deal.
What Health Insurer will want the business?
Perhaps they will go back to the US and we will have our own NHS back.
Minuchin’s concept of the psychosomatic family (enmeshment, rigidity, over-protectiveness, and lack of conflict resolution) was both insightful and ground breaking at the time. However, it seems to be no longer fashionable or politically correct in the modern day no-blame culture. I do not have any argument with the no-blame approach, but it would not hurt psychiatrists to understand cases from Minuchin’s point of view without making a song and dance about it.
Sometimes modern parents give their children too much right and freedom for self determination.
In the chapter “SARS and Knowledge” of my book, I compared the freedom to starve oneself to that of not wearing a mask during the SARS outbreak in the endemic zones:
“…… If a child can be made to wear an uncomfortable mask, why can parents not make a child eat?...”
In matters concerning life or death, shouldn’t zero tolerance really be a no-brainer?
No doubt the promotion of zero size models by the fashion industry has managed to exert undue influence on some gullible teenagers and created a “cult” following. Have you not noticed how frightened some of the anorectics are of even the slightest touch of fat? How they panic when banned from exercising! There always seems to be a little voice in their head asking them to disobey their parents, nurses, psychiatrists and anyone who tells them that their belief is wrong. Like any cult rescue, someone needs to take over and the one taking over will take over the wrath of the new Anorexia god.
“It is not me who wants to eat, it is them.”
All those trying to help are on the “other side”
Yet, given time, there will be recovery for cult victims, at least for some.
What if in DSM V (the next edition of DSM), Anorexia Nervosa was voted out by the psychiatrists as a mental condition? (As they did with Homosexuality in 1973.) What if the European Court of Human Rights deemed it against human rights to forcibly treat Anorexia Nervosa? (Remember Ghandi?)
My speculations are that under these circumstances:
1:A third of the parents would take over and make sure that their bright young offspring eat properly and stop blaming adolescent units for failing them.
2:A third would have rich enough parents who would pay for their expensive treatment in health farms.
3:Some would be snapped up by modelling agencies as the world is hungry for skinny models.
The reality is that the availability of force feeding as a last resort often leads to complacency in the Psychiatric Team. Creativity is key to the resolution of many Child Psychiatric problems and the fact that Anorexia Nervosa patients can change dramatically in a split second is testament to the need for such an approach. (The Chapter “Seven Minute Cure” in The Cockroach Catcher describes such a case.) I am not advocating the declassification of Anorexia Nervosa, but would just like to encourage those of us dealing with these cases to try to understand the underlying dynamics and be innovative in their management. It could be a worthwhile experience.
In The Cockroach Catcher Dr Zhang got his Anorectic patient to play the cello that was banned by the “weight gain contract”:
“She missed the cello too, the only thing she could use to shut out her worries.
Fourteen and carrying the burden of the world.
She played a couple of scales and we made some fine tuning. It was not quite the same as the violin, but at least I knew not to overdo the pegs. Then she started playing.
“Ah. The Bach G-major”
“So you know it”
Of course I do. The hours I spent listening to Yo Yo Ma and it was such amazing music, melancholic and uplifting at the same time. For a moment I forgot that I was her psychiatrist and she forgot she was my patient.
The trick with Anorexia Nervosa is you need to be inventive and inventive every single day. Think Jay Haley, think Hobson’s choice. The patient can still be a vegan. She does not need any drugs. She does not need any ECT or neurosurgical procedure.
In the end, Anorexia Nervosa could be a rewarding condition to deal with:
“If our work is to be therapeutic then a sort of therapeutic alliance is important, even if tentative. Some people do not realise that you can fight with your patient and still have a sort of therapeutic alliance.” The Cockroach Catcher