Getting Serious About Obesity Care in Medicare

U.S. Capitol DomeToday for the first time ever, the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee will be marking up the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act on Capitol Hill. This is a big deal simply because it means that finally, after a decade of advocacy efforts, Congress is getting serious about obesity care in Medicare.

Technically, what the committee will be reviewing is an amended version of the bill introduced for this session of Congress in July of 2023. It’s called an “Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute to H.R. 4818” (AINS). In essence, this is a negotiated version of the bill with amendments necessary to secure support for moving it forward.

This is an important step toward removing serious barriers to obesity care for people who rely on Medicare. That includes a ban on covering obesity medicines used for weight loss and barriers that get in the way of registered dietitians providing care for people dealing with obesity.

Support from Obesity Care Advocates

Obesity care advocates are supporting this sign of progress. Late yesterday, a total of 29 organizations issued a letter of support to the Ways and Means Committee leadership, saying:

“We support the AINS legislation that would allow older adults to maintain their treatment for obesity without being denied access to lifesaving treatments when enrolling in Medicare. Current law is inequitable and disrupts the continuity of care for patients.”

Movement Toward Doing the Right Thing

This is huge. It brings us closer to the goal of removing stupid barriers to care for the most common chronic disease in America – for that matter, in the whole world. Legislators have been hesitant because they fret about the incremental cost of actually letting people get the care they need to prevent things like diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, and premature death. A good measure of weight bias is at work in this hesitancy.

But legislators are finally getting serious about obesity care in Medicare for two reasons. First, it’s becoming obvious to almost everyone that DIY weight loss simply doesn’t cut it for overcoming obesity. Second, and perhaps more important, people living with obesity see that good obesity care can make them healthier and help them lead fuller lives. They are demanding access to this life-changing care. Increasingly, legislators recognize this and want to do the right thing.

Click here for further perspective and here for the posting on this from the committee. Voice your support for the legislation here.

U.S. Capitol Dome, photograph by David Iliff, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

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June 27, 2024