Obesity Treatment Access: Essential for Taming Health Costs

Chronic diseases will affect half of all Americans by 2020, and most of those diseases will stem from obesity and excess weight. Those diseases are responsible for most of the growth in healthcare costs and we cannot hope to get those costs under control without giving patients and physicians as many tools as possible for obesity treatment.

That’s the view put forward this week in USA Today by Tommy Thompson, former HHS Secretary, and Kenneth Thorpe, professor and chair of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. They argue that simply diagnosing and treating chronic diseases after they are ravaging the body is simply inadequate and unaffordable.

They present obesity treatment as an ideal place to change that approach. While we don’t yet have the tools to routinely cure obesity, maintaining a 5-10% reduction in weight lowers the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and a range of other chronic diseases substantially. Eleven pounds of weight reduction yields a 58% reduction in the risk of diabetes. Even two pounds reduces the risk 16%.

All obesity treatment options should be on the table. Surgery, which can be life-saving, is often covered, but patients face many hurdles to qualify. Obesity drugs are excluded from Medicare Part D and many health plans, even though they’re proven to prevent diabetes and other chronic diseases from progressing.

This has got to change. We can’t hope to control the chronic diseases that are costing our lives and our fortunes if we block people from treating the obesity that’s driving the problem.

Click here to read more in USA Today.

Health, photography © Tax Credits / flickr

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