You can also access treatment for bulimia nervosa (BN) or other eating disorders under COBRA coverage. The specific coverage you get will depend on the original insurance plan’s level of coverage, but it will often cover BN and other eating disorder treatments.
Does COBRA Cover Eating Disorder Treatment?
COBRA is not a singular type of insurance plan.  The acronym represents a law that gives people the opportunity to continue receiving health benefits they had gotten through group health plans, after the loss of a job, for limited periods of time, under certain circumstances.
In that sense, whether this type of health coverage will extend to eating disorder treatment depends on the previous coverage you were using.
COBRA plans usually offer the exact same coverage you had through your place of employment.
If your original insurance plan worked to cover eating disorder treatment, COBRA may allow you to temporarily continue receiving that coverage. Because of this, you can also continue to visit the same medical professionals and facilities that you did prior to leaving your job.
What Will COBRA Cover for Bulimia Treatment?
The kind of care COBRA allows you to get covered can vary significantly, depending on your original insurance plan. Some types of care that are often covered for the treatment of bulimia nervosa include individual psychotherapy, therapy for co-occurring mental health issues, hospitalization when necessary, medications, and more.
As a general rule, any type of care you receive will need to be considered medically necessary. The professionals designating your treatment plan will need to demonstrate that the care they’re recommending will significantly benefit you and that the treatment is considered evidence-based or widely accepted in the medical community. If a treatment isn’t found to be medically necessary, it is unlikely to be covered by any health insurance plan through COBRA or otherwise.
Many insurance providers also stipulate that they will not cover a particular treatment if another less expensive treatment would provide the same benefits. In that case, only the less expensive treatment would be covered.
The structure of COBRA’s continuation coverage means the plan abides by the same rules as any previous insurance carrier.
What COBRA Will Not Cover for Eating Disorder Treatment
As with types of treatment COBRA will cover, the plan will generally not cover treatments that would not be covered by your original plan. Again, the specifics will depend on the nature of that original plan, with a vast range of coverage situations.
You can expect most plans not to support any treatment considered experimental or otherwise unsupported by modern medical evidence. This includes treatments that still need to be proven with further research, even if they have some evidence in their favor.
The more expensive a treatment, the more expectations usually come with getting it covered. You’ll usually need to prove that it is necessary for recovery in a way no alternatives would be.
Of the types of care generally accepted as valid for treating BN, inpatient treatment is usually the most difficult to secure coverage for due to this high burden of proof. In some cases, you may need to:
- Dispute a denial of coverage for this type of treatment
- Work with your doctor to modify your treatment plan
- Look for an outpatient treatment program that can offer the kind of help you need
How to Start the Treatment Process Using COBRA Coverage
To start taking advantage of COBRA, first research the law. You should be aware of the basic rights provided by the act and make sure that your previous employer is following the rules set by the law.  Assuming you’ve set up your coverage correctly, your insurance should temporarily work much like any normal insurance would.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that COBRA coverage is generally much more expensive than the cost of health insurance secured through an employer. Many companies subsidize the cost of employee insurance, so employees pay significantly less out of pocket.
After leaving a job, many people are surprised to learn how much their monthly premiums will cost on a COBRA plan. For some people, it makes more financial sense to secure a new health insurance plan altogether rather than continue their prior coverage under COBRA.
Be aware, also, that your coverage will extend only from the date of the qualifying event—usually, your termination—for 18 or 36 months.  You will want to prepare for that end of coverage and find another plan you qualify for that can provide needed coverage once your COBRA plan expires.
Finding Treatment Centers in Your Network
Most major insurance providers have an easy way to find in-network providers, usually through some sort of search tool on their site. You can also often just call care providers in your area and ask if they’re able to accept your insurance.
Remember that COBRA is not an insurance plan. You’ll need to ask if they accept plans from your specific insurance provider. If you’re unsure where to begin, you may want to call the company you currently have insurance with and ask them the best way to find in-network care providers.
- Continuation of Health Coverage (COBRA). (n.d.). U.S. Department of Labor. Retrieved February 5, 2023.
- COBRA Rights Checklist. (n.d.). National Eating Disorders Association. Retrieved February 5, 2023.
- FAQs on COBRA Continuation Health Care for Workers. (n.d.). U.S. Department of Labor. Retrieved February 5, 2023.