It had been almost a month of my parents, doctors, and I mentally preparing for my departure before the first denial letter came. I had my bags packed and one foot out the door when my mom came over my dads house (always a bad sign) so they could break the news to me. It was clear to us that this had to be a mistake. The wrong person must have been in charge of my case. There must have been an internal error. There was no way this could be accurate. All of the documents clearly stated I was in desperate need of this treatment. People who need help receive it, right? Isn’t that why insurance companies exist?
We chalked it up to just being part of the process and my parents, still full of hope, filed for an appeal. We were ready. This time I was going to get in. We were sure of it.
This couldn’t be happening. How the fuck could this be happening? My happy skinny future! My Urban Outfitter dreams!!!! I was going to be loved! I was going to be beautiful!
My parents were in just as much shock as I was. They consulted a lawyer to help with the second appeal. My doctor, therapist, and psychiatrist all wrote letters stating my case and begged for the decision to be overturned. But it wasn’t, and after the third denial letter came we all put on our boxing gloves and began to fight like my life depended on it. Because it did.
I was herded from doctor to doctor and each of them wrote some form of the same plea after evaluating me: This girl is in bad shape, if you don’t grant her admission to this hospital we fear that both her mental and physical health are going to plummet to a point of no repair. After each new stack of letters got sent out by my lawyer we waited. A few weeks later another denial letter would arrive and a new appeal process began. New doctors would be contacted and more evaluations would be ordered. I had blood work done, heart scans while walking on a treadmill, and endless invasive interviews. When none of this made any difference my mom began contacting politicians, begging for any help they could give. Each one answered and wrote to my insurance company on my behalf.
Nothing worked. The denial letters just kept coming, each with the same bullshit attached to them. They were empathetic to my case (really?). They heard what everyone was saying but they just didn’t think it was necessary for me to be in long term treatment (ummm?). They believed I would be able to be successful in an intensive outpatient setting (???). I had not only already been in outpatient treatment for years, but had now been evaluated at every outpatient facility dealing with obesity and mental illness on Long Island. All of them came to the same conclusion, which was stated in every single letter written in my defense, I NEEDED LONG TERM INPATIENT CARE.
We were all exhausted and in a permanent state of shock. How could it be possible that with so many people fighting for me and saying the same thing that they were still refusing me help?! Each appeal showed my condition worsening by the minute. My weight had risen twenty pounds in nearly two months and my binging was completely out of control. All of this was documented, all of this was sent to them and yet still they denied me? What the fuck was going on? I don’t think any of us, me especially, had any sense of what we were getting ourselves into when we started this process. As far as I was concerned the hard part was over once I agreed to seek treatment. I had already been accepted as a patient in the only place we could find that fit the parameters of what I needed. Everyone at both Chestnut and in my life wholeheartedly agreed that it was where I needed to be. There was no question, no wavering, no, "Maybe this isn’t right. Maybe we should try something a little less intense." This was it, it was unanimous. I had no idea insurance companies had this kind of power. None of us did. It didn’t make sense, it seemed unethical, it was unfair.
The battle was soul crushing not just for me but for my parents and everyone else involved. I had a solid case but it didn’t seem to matter. We started to feel helpless. An air of despair, frustration, and anger loomed around all of us. No one slept and we all lived in a state of panic. We were at war, a war to save my life, and it felt more and more like a losing battle every day. My depression and binging became more severe, and I started to feel like there was no chance for me. The denials weren’t just a denial of treatment, they were a denial of a second chance at life.
I had been defeated.