COMMENTARY | The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid announced Tuesday that it will begin providing coverage for the screening and counseling of obesity for individuals receiving services through Medicare. It's not likely to be enough to solve the obesity problem, but there I have hope that in the future, CMM will provide payment for ongoing services to address the lifestyle choices and changes that need to happen when a person chooses to lose weight.
This coverage is in line with the provider's other covered preventive services. While this coverage is laudable in its intent, it falls short in that the only counseling services available to obese individuals will be through primary care providers. Payment for counseling services provided in any other setting, including community health care centers, will continue to be the recipient's financial responsibility.
As Peter Jacobson, health policy professor at the University of Michigan, explained to MedPage Today, primary care providers are one part of the solution to helping motivated patients who are obese to lose weight, but that these governmental health providers failed to make the important link between medical care and mental health by excluding payment for obesity counseling through mental health providers.
For some people, the recommended once-a-week visits to their primary care provider for the first month, then every two weeks for the following five months may be all that is necessary to begin weight loss. But, as Robert Field of Drexel University in Philadelphia notes, most Medicare recipients are older adults who have likely had lifelong habits that have resulted in obesity. Short term counseling will help to address the initiation of weight loss, but not the sustained effort to change lifestyle choices necessary to obtain and maintain a healthy weight.
Both of these medical experts applaud the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid's first steps in fighting obesity, a health condition that is the precursor to many chronic illnesses such as stroke and heart disease. I applaud the ruling also, but hope it will not be the final step.
Smack dab in the middle of the baby boomer generation, L.L. Woodard is a proud resident of "The Red Man" state. With what he hopes is an everyman's view of life's concerns both in his state and throughout the nation, Woodard presents facts and opinions based on common-sense solutions.