UnitedHealthcare plans typically cover eating disorder treatment, including treatment for bulimia nervosa (BN). The company acknowledges the importance of eating disorder treatment on its site, highlighting the importance of getting care for these conditions.
If you have UnitedHealthcare, you may be able to get certain types of care for BN covered under the insurance company’s behavioral health treatment plan.
Does UnitedHealthcare Cover Eating Disorder Treatment?
An insurance plan from the UnitedHealthcare group will typically cover certain aspects of eating disorder diagnosis and treatment.
As eating disorders like BN, anorexia nervosa (AN), and binge eating disorder (BED) are listed in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM), the official record of all recognized mental health disorders, they are generally covered through behavioral health services.
As is true of most insurance plans, you will need to get a diagnosis for your eating disorder before being able to fully benefit from the coverage your plan provides. In addition, the treatments you receive should be deemed medically necessary for BN and/or your specific situation.
What Will UnitedHealthcare Cover for Bulimia Treatment?
Specific coverage depends on the type of plan you have with UnitedHealthcare. Overall, the insurance provider values the importance of diagnostic assessments, such as testing a patient’s heart rate, body measurements, skin health, and more, for signs of an eating disorder.  Generally, these evaluations and tests will be covered by your UnitedHealthcare plan.
When it comes to types of care, UnitedHealthcare plans will likely cover approved evidence-based treatments related to eating disorder recovery. Common treatments for bulimia nervosa include individual psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), nutritional counseling, family therapy, group therapy, and more.
Inpatient or residential treatment may be recommended for people with especially severe symptoms, although this type of care generally requires special authorization for coverage, due to its high cost. You can talk to a prospective treatment center or a UnitedHealthcare representative about how to maximize your insurance coverage for inpatient treatment.
If your coverage is denied, you can dispute the claim. You can also ask your doctor to recommend a different course of treatment that’s more likely to be covered or explore other treatment options, such as an intensive outpatient program or partial hospitalization program.
What Will UnitedHealthcare Not Cover for Eating Disorder Treatment?
While different plans differ in levels and extent of coverage, treatment typically needs to be deemed medically necessary and backed by current medical evidence in order to be covered.
Some treatments that could potentially be beneficial may at times be considered too experimental to be covered, even if they may someday be covered as new research emerges. For example, research is ongoing into the use of cannabinoids to reduce certain eating disorder symptoms, but at this point, the research is too nascent. 
Insurance companies also generally cover the least expensive type of care shown to help. If an equally effective, yet less expensive, option is available, UnitedHealthcare will likely only cover the less expensive option.
How to Start the Treatment Process Using UnitedHealthcare Coverage
To take full advantage of your UnitedHealthcare coverage, it’s important to read and understand the specifics of your plan thoroughly. Then, get an official diagnosis for your eating disorder if you don’t already have one, ideally from an in-network treatment provider to maximize your savings.
With that diagnosis, you can then work with a professional to form a treatment plan. Getting the recommended treatments from in-network providers will again help you maximize coverage, and thus, your savings.
You may still be able to secure some level of coverage for out-of-network providers, but you can expect to pay higher out-of-pocket costs. To avoid any surprise bills in the future, make sure to confirm the specifics of your plan for out-of-network coverage before pursuing any of these physicians or programs.
Finding Bulimia Treatment Centers in UnitedHealthcare’s Network
UnitedHealthcare offers several tools to help their customers find in-network care providers.  The option to “Find mental health providers” is likely to be the most relevant in the case of people seeking help to get a diagnosis and/or treatment for an eating disorder. Eating disorders are typically considered mental health issues even if they can also cause very serious physical symptoms.
If you are uncertain about any specifics of your coverage level for bulimia treatment, reach out to UnitedHealthcare to get your questions answered.
- Helping Those Struggling With Eating Disorders Find a Road to Recovery. (n.d.). UnitedHealthcare. Retrieved February 6, 2023.
- Lim K, See YM, & Lee J. (2017). A Systematic Review of the Effectiveness of Medical Cannabis for Psychiatric, Movement and Neurodegenerative Disorders. Clinical Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience; 15(4):301–312.
- Find UnitedHealthcare Doctors, Dentists and Providers. (n.d.). UnitedHealthcare. Retrieved February 6, 2023.