By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON – Look out Obese America!
You have assumed from smokers the mantle of Public Health Enemy No. 1, this time in the federal fight against fat and the bottom line.
Of course, federal lawmakers are coming after the nation’s overweight to save them — from themselves — and they apparently want to spend a lot of money on this rescue operation.
Just how much isn’t yet clear.
This week, a bipartisan group of U.S. representatives, including Wisconsin western district Congressman Ron Kind, introduced the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act,which would give Medicare beneficiaries and their health-care providers “additional tools” to treat and reduce obesity.
“We know how severe the health risks of obesity are, and the actual costs of care for obesity-related illnesses are just as alarming,” Kind said in a statement. “This bipartisan legislation will help bring health care costs under control, by providing more tools for those trying to overcome obesity and lead longer, healthier lives.”
Among its provisions, the bill would “allow” Medicare to cover additional obesity treatments such as prescription drugs for chronic weight management, which Medicaid already covers in more than 20 states. Weight-loss surgery is the only obesity treatment tool currently covered by Medicare.
The legislation also would require the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to highlight Medicare coverage of intensive behavioral counseling for obesity for seniors and their doctors, and give CMS authority to “enhance Medicare beneficiary access to benefits for intensive behavioral counseling by allowing additional types of providers to offer this service.”
THE BOTTOM LINE: A bipartisan bill making its way through the House would pump more money into America’s growing obesity problem.