Pay Up

OMG, They’re Paying Doctors to Deal with Obesity?!

The New York Times describes a booming business in weight management because the Affordable Care Act has health insurance paying doctors to deal with obesity. Through anecdotes and interviews with people who have something to sell, they paint a vaguely disturbing picture of flourishing “for-profit diet clinics” that operate on “the fringe of the medical establishment.”

Unfortunately, they brush right past the emerging medical specialty of obesity medicine and explore very little of the unmet need for evidence-based medical care experienced by most people living with obesity.

The intent of the story was not to talk about medical care or even to dig into substantial facts about the financial realities of medical weight management services. The intent was to tell a story about a burgeoning medical weight loss industry, unconstrained by dismal facts about limited coverage and the challenges of providing good care for this complex, chronic disease. A story that hints at hucksterism and quackery is easier to read and more appealing to people who don’t really care about dealing with obesity.

Unfortunately, this story might mislead people into thinking that they can’t get good medical care for obesity from a physician in private practice.

The truth is that obesity medicine is a growing specialty of physicians who are often motivated by a very personal commitment to provide much needed care for a condition with far-reaching effects on health and life. Reimbursements are low and most of the patients who need these services cannot afford to pay out of pocket. Bummer.

“Never let the truth get in the way of a good story” — Mark Twain

Click here to read the article from the New York Times. Click here for a closer look at the American Board of Obesity Medicine.

Pay Up, photograph © Thomas Hawk / flickr

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