The Nexus of Managed Care and Obesity

Until recently, managed care and obesity existed in weirdly parallel universes. Obesity was trivialized as if it’s a simple matter of personal choice and thus systematically excluded from coverage under many, if not most, health plans. And health plans paid for ballooning costs of the chronic diseases that resulted. But at the annual symposium of the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP) Foundation Monday, the emerging intersection of these two worlds was quite plain. Three core concepts emerged:

  1. Chronic Disease Management. Scott Kahan of George Washington University explained that well-defined principles for chronic disease management work for obesity care. They just haven’t been routinely applied to the chronic disease of obesity.
  2. Prevention. Ted Kyle, Policy Advisor to The Obesity Society, described the burden of costs and complications that can be prevented by delivering evidence-based obesity care. Untreated obesity harms virtually every organ system and results in conditions that resist treatment, he said.
  3. Respect. Joe Nadglowski, CEO of the Obesity Action Coalition, provided insight into the clinical harm caused by pervasive bias against people with obesity. Genuine patient-centered care requires overcoming this bias.

Mainstream medical professionals are recognizing obesity as the complex disease that lies at the root of some of the most costly and devastating chronic diseases they are confronting: heart disease, diabetes, and cancer are at the top of the list. So simply ignoring obesity or telling health plan members that they’re on their own when it comes to obesity hasn’t worked out. Smart managed care professionals are now looking for ways to reduce the burden of disease and medical costs resulting from untreated obesity.

Click here for Kahan’s presentation, here for Kyle’s presentation, and here for Nadglowski’s presentation.

Intersections, photograph © Karoli / flickr

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October 27, 2015