Juliana Rose Pignataro
With the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act Wednesday, Congress enacted legislation dealing directly with eating disorders for the first time. Along with a number of health provisions and an allocation of $4.8 billion in funding for the National Institutes of Health, the bill calls for better education and training for eating disorders, appropriate treatment and reformed health insurance coverage.
Within the bill are provisions from the Anna Westin Act, a 2015 law honoring a 21-year-old from Minnesota who died after a five-year battle with anorexia. Her parents worked with the Emily Foundation, a nonprofit focused on eating disorder education and advocacy, and the Eating Disorders Coalition to pass legislation in Washington, culminating in the provisions included in the 21st Century Cures Act.
“Passing our bipartisan legislation into law brings us one step closer to preventing future tragedies and giving patients the tools they need to get help,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who helped introduce the Anna Westin Act in 2015.
The act includes provisions to update available information, resources, and research, provide education, training, early intervention and treatment and reform health insurance to prevent exclusion for those with eating disorders.
Passed in the Senate by a 94-5 vote on Wednesday, the bill is expected to be signed this week by President Barack Obama.
“Like all comprehensive legislation, the bill is not perfect, and there are provisions the Administration would prefer were improved, but the legislation offers advances in health that far outweigh these concerns,” the White House said in a press release Nov. 30. “The Senate should promptly pass this bill so that the President can sign it.”
The bill comes at a time of unprecedented rises in the rates of eating disorders alongside underfunded research and inadequate health insurance coverage, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. At least 30 million people in the U.S. suffer from an eating disorder, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.
The bill also allocates funding for mental health, cancer treatment and drug addiction.