Look out obese America!
You have assumed from smokers the mantle of Public Health Enemy No. 1, this time in the federal fight against fat and the bottom line.
Of course, federal lawmakers are coming after the nation’s overweight to save them — from themselves — and they apparently want to spend a lot of money on this rescue operation.
Just how much isn’t yet clear.
This week, a bipartisan group of U.S. representatives, including Wisconsin western district Congressman Ron Kind, introduced the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act,which would give Medicare beneficiaries and their health-care providers “additional tools” to treat and reduce obesity.
“We know how severe the health risks of obesity are, and the actual costs of care for obesity-related illnesses are just as alarming,” Kind said in a statement. “This bipartisan legislation will help bring health care costs under control, by providing more tools for those trying to overcome obesity and lead longer, healthier lives.”
Among its provisions, the bill would “allow” Medicare to cover additional obesity treatments such as prescription drugs for chronic weight management, which Medicaid already covers in more than 20 states. Weight-loss surgery is the only obesity treatment tool currently covered by Medicare.
The legislation also would require the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to highlight Medicare coverage of intensive behavioral counseling for obesity for seniors and their doctors, and give CMS authority to “enhance Medicare beneficiary access to benefits for intensive behavioral counseling by allowing additional types of providers to offer this service.”
THE BOTTOM LINE: A bipartisan bill making its way through the House would pump more money into America’s growing obesity problem.
There’s no doubt about it: Obesity is a huge health issue in America, with related health-care costs pegged at nearly $200 million.
A 2009 report titled, “The Future Cost of Obesity: National and State Estimates of the Impact of Obesity on Direct Health Care Expenses,” estimates that “if current trends continue, 43 percent of U.S. adults will be obese and obesity spending would quadruple to $344 billion by 2018. The report was based on research by Emory University health-care economist Ken Thorpe, Ph.D., executive director of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease.
Thorpe this week teamed up with former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, who served as Health and Human Services secretary under President George W. Bush, to urge policymakers to act expeditiously in fighting what they and many others define as an obesity epidemic.
Thompson, in the op-ed piece headlined, “Targeting Obesity with Health Care Reform,”warned, “We cannot afford to wait until patients are on Medicare to fight obesity. Rather, we need to encourage weight control over the course of patients’ lives.”
In other words, the government needs to save the increasingly average American from himself.
Thompson had some kind things to say about Obamacare and the potential for its applications, some things he may not have gone on the record to say when he stood by repeal of the contentious health-care act during his unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate in 2012.
“Fortunately, we now have an ideal opportunity to implement reforms. The new health insurance exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act can establish effective care coordination strategies to identify and treat chronic conditions earlier, addressing not just the immediate conditions but the underlying ones as well,” the op-ed piece asserts.
Thompson and Thorpe argue Medicare can adopt the strategies, and the “benefits for both patients and taxpayers will be substantial.”
Proponents of government intervention into a chronic condition now classified as a disease by the American Medical Association, say federal investments – whatever they may be – will pay off multi-fold over time.