Obesity coverage could cut chronic condition costs


More than nine months since the American Medical Association declared obesity a disease, federal law still forbids Medicare from covering obesity medications.

But coverage of obesity under Medicare and other insurance plans could slow the rate of chronic diseases and reduce the long-term costs of obesity-related chronic conditions, Tommy G. Thompson, former secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Kenneth Thorpe, chair at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, wrote in an opinion piece in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

To fight obesity and associated chronic diseases, former HHS Secretary Thompson and PFCD Chairman Kenneth Thorpe called on Congress to pass the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act, which would expand Medicare coverage to provide patients with needed obesity care.

Private insurers should cover more services that could prevent childhood obesity, which practically triples healthcare costs, FierceHealthPayer previously reported. Since 12.5 million children--almost 17 percent of all American kids--are obese, healthcare costs and medical utilization rates will likely rise children develop obesity-related conditions, including diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

What's more, 65 percent of Americans believe Medicare should cover obesity medications, while 52 percent want the government to invest more in obesity treatments, according to a new Ipsos survey of more than 1,000 U.S. adults released by the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD).

"We devote a great deal of attention--worthwhile attention, to be sure--to the issue of childhood obesity, but as we struggle with the challenge of keeping programs like Medicaid and Medicare financially sustainable, comparatively little focus is devoted to the problem of obesity and its related chronic diseases among older populations," Thorpe said in the survey announcement.

For more:
- here's the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette piece
- read the PFCD survey announcement

Related Articles:
Insurer buy-in needed to fight childhood obesity
Aetna combats chronic conditions, med non-adherence with mHealth
AMA recognizes obesity as a disease
Nonprofit hospitals urged to incorporate obesity in community health benefits
Insurers keep watchful eye on costly diabetic members