Tuesday, June 18, 2013, the American Medical Association officially called obesity a disease.
Here's what that means from the doctor's perspective:
- Doctors now have a professional obligation to make a diagnosis of obesity.
- Doctors will now have to prescribe programs and monitor the disease, just as they monitor high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
- Doctors do not have to be afraid of having "that difficult discussion" with their patients about losing weight.
- Doctors can now bill for "that difficult discussion".
Here's what that means from the patient's perspective:
- Patient's can now undergo bariatric surgery (and some insurance carriers will cover this).
- Patient's care for obesity will now be covered under insurance, just as treatment for high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol is currently.
- Patient's will be referred to make lifestyle changes.
Lifestyle changes will be the hardest to implement and maintain. Currently, there are several providers of lifestyle solutions. These include personal trainers, nutritionists, and qualified health care practitioners. Currently, neither personal trainers nor nutritionists are "designated health care providers" for insurance purposes, thus hiring one or the other is not reimbursable by the insurance company. Qualified health care providers (i.e. nurse practioners and doctors, etc..) will be inundated with dealing with the monitoring of obesity of their patients, thus we may see an increase in the hiring of qualified individuals in the medical profession. If patients are left to bear the expense of obesity (gym costs, personal trainers, nutritionists), chances of success (diet, exercise = lifestyle change) will be poor (in my opinion). Programs like Weight Watchers may have a chance, with a proven system and program, of obtaining coverage under insurance programs.
What I will say is this...under the new Health Care Reform, is it fair for taxpayers to pick up the tab for someone who can't or won't change their habits? Let's see how this plays out.