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Cigna Enters New York Accord Over Eating Disorder Claims

Health insurer Cigna Corp. settled New York state’s allegations that it illegally denied its members treatment for eating disorders by agreeing to remove a cap on visits for nutritional counseling.

The Bloomfield, Connecticut-based insurer settled civil claims that it denied hundreds of requests by insureds for the counseling, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said today. Under New York’s mental health law, insurers must provide coverage of mental illnesses that is at least equal to coverage for other conditions, he said.

“State law clearly requires health insurance companies to provide mental health benefits on par with other medical benefits,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “There is no gray area here.”

Cigna agreed to eliminate a three-visit cap for nutritional counseling for mental health purposes and to pay $33,000 in previous claims it had denied, according to the statement. Cigna will also pay a $23,000 civil penalty. The insurer didn’t admit or deny the allegations. The agreement was posted on the attorney’s general’s website.

“Cigna appreciates the opportunity to work with the attorney general’s office on this issue and is now implementing the provisions of the settlement,” Cigna spokesman Mark Slitt said in an e-mail. “Cigna regrets any inconvenience or confusion this may have caused our customers.”

Slitt said that the company has cooperated with the attorney general’s office and will communicate with affected customers.

As part of his claim, Schneiderman said the insurer limited nutrition counseling for patients with behavioral conditions while not imposing similar constraints for patients with diabetes.

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