The Emerging Specialty of Obesity Medicine

Obesity Medicine Association LogoIn Washington, DC, last night, another milestone in the emerging specialty of obesity medicine was marked. The Obesity Medicine Association celebrated its brand new identity for the group previously known as the American Society of Bariatric Physicians.

For most people, the word “bariatric” is a confusing distraction. People know, more or less, what obesity is. Right now, it’s so stigmatized that few people want to talk about having it, but we can work on that. At this point, just about all of the professionals who are serious about this disease — obesity — have decided to stop running from it. They are doubling down on research, development, and delivery of real evidence-based care for obesity.

On the consumer side of the equation, a growing number of people are ready to confront the disease and defy anyone who wants to shame them for it. That’s why the Obesity Action Coalition has now grown to a membership of more than 50,000 people affected by obesity.

On the occasion of Friday’s milestone, one obesity medicine physician described a turning point in his professional career as an obesity medicine physician. It bears repeating to illustrate the importance of this milestone.

After a major health plan audited his patient records, they wrote him a letter stating that they had “discovered” that he was treating about half of his patients for obesity. They noted that obesity treatment was not a covered benefit for many of their plan members.

He obtained a face-to-face meeting with the medical director, head of provider relations for the plan, and a few others. He presented case histories for ten of his patients with personal identities redacted and reviewed the improvements in their health that resulted from his care: glucose metabolism, cardiovascular health, joint pain, and quality of life. He asked why they were willing to pay an internist to treat all of these concerns, but not him.

After a brief discussion, the medical director told him, “Well, as long as you continue to code correctly for the various known co-morbidities and back them up with data, we will continue to reimburse you.”

We look forward to a future where such discussions are unnecessary.

Emerge, photograph © David Goehring / flickr

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October 3, 2015

2 Responses to “The Emerging Specialty of Obesity Medicine”

  1. October 05, 2015 at 8:59 am, Kathleen Roberts said:

    I’ve been so fortunate to work with one of the few “Bariatricians” in the Midwest, Dr. Leon Jons!! He has helped me TREMENDOUSLY!!
    He is one of the kindest, most sincere, and knowledgeable Drs. I’ve seen in my 58 yrs. I am also a proud member of the OAC…
    Combined, I am at a point in my life (finally) that I am feeling hopeful for
    success in this battle against obesity!!
    Thank you!!

    • October 05, 2015 at 1:53 pm, Ted said:

      Congratulations on what you’ve accomplished, Kathleen. It’s not easy. Thanks for supporting the OAC!