Earlier this week, a federal health advisory panel recommended that obese adults receive intensive counseling in order to address the mounting obesity epidemic in America. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force encouraged doctors to identify and aid obese patients by providing counseling, or referring them to a weight loss-oriented program.
Specially targeted: patients with a body mass index of 30 or more — which is currently one in three Americans.
Under the current health care law, medicare and most other insurers would be required to cover the cost of any recommended weight loss services. Under current guidelines, many health insurance companies aren’t required — and don’t cover — weight loss counseling. And according to a recent study, more than half of obese patients had never been told they were obese by their doctors. The Preventative Services Task Force, though, found that obese patients found the most success with “intensive, multicomponent behavioral interventions,” involving at least a dozen counseling sessions.
“These types of programs really focus on changing your lifestyle,” said task force member David Grossman. “Some commercial and non-profit weight-management programs offer many of these features.”
Why is curbing obesity necessary? Aside from the health problems associated with being obese, obesity accounts an estimated $147 billion in annual healthcare spending.
But the panel’s recommendations — and their impact — may be short-lived, depending on the Supreme Court’s ruling on the constitutionality of the current health care law. The ruling is expected to come down on Thursday.