Your health: Health plans get in way of obesity care

  • Many health plans don't cover obesity treaments and surgery.

    Many health plans don't cover obesity treaments and surgery. AP File photo

Posted11/12/2016 7:30 AM

Health plans get in way of obesity care

New research in two separate studies presented at ObesityWeek demonstrates that health plans often stand in the way of obesity care, the Obesity Action Coalition reports.


In one study, researchers from Harvard, ConscienHealth, and the Obesity Action Coalition found that Americans report they don't have health insurance that will pay for obesity care recommended in evidence-based guidelines, including dietary counseling, medical obesity treatment and bariatric surgery.

Even for people with employers targeting obesity in their wellness programs, people do not believe that their health insurance will even cover dietary counseling by a registered dietitian.

Reported coverage for medical obesity treatment, obesity medicines, and bariatric surgery is even lower.

In research from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins, Ruchi Doshi reports that most health professionals believe that better insurance coverage for weight management services is important for providing better obesity care in clinical practice.

"While self-management strategies, such as following a commercial diet or increasing exercise, can help in some individuals, most people with obesity, especially those with severe obesity, can benefit from a comprehensive approach including health care professional support," said Dr. Scott Kahan, director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness.

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Harvard Obesity Medicine Physician Fatima Cody Stanford participated in the coverage gap research and commented on its implications, "Without coverage, many people must go without good medical care for obesity. The irony is that untreated obesity leads to a host of chronic diseases -- diabetes and heart disease -- that wind up costing health plans more. The current situation makes little sense, financially or medically."

Joe Nadglowski, president and CEO of the Obesity Action Coalition added, "Our members report heartbreaking struggles to obtain insurance coverage for services like bariatric surgeries and obesity medicines that are necessary to reduce and prevent obesity from ravaging their health. Sometimes they are outright denied coverage and presented with absurd hurdles that have the same effect."

Millions fall asleep behind the wheel

The National Sleep Foundation reports staggering drowsy driving statistics -- that more than 7 million American drivers, reported falling asleep behind the wheel within the past two weeks.

Equally alarming, results of the Sleep Health Index also indicate that people only felt well-rested about four days per week.

"Three days out of the week the average American is not well-rested, which has implications for productivity, well-being, mood, health, and, of course, driving. This suggests that the occurrence of drowsy driving is likely underreported," said NSF Research Fellow, Kristen Knutson, PhD.

Other results from the SHI found that only 8 percent of respondents reported having avoided driving in the past two weeks because of feeling tired. Additionally, only 2 percent of respondents indicated that they avoided taking a ride with a driver who they felt was too tired to drive safely in that same time period.

To reduce the 6,400 annual deaths attributed to drowsy driving, NSF declared Nov. 6-13 to be Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.

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