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Doctors to Congress: Help Obesity Patients

With time ticking down for federal lawmakers to approve new spending bills for 2023, a group of clinician advocates has written to Congress, asking them to encourage CMS to finally cover obesity medications under Medicare Part D. That Congressional support would come via the report that accompanies a spending bill. 

Obesity afflicts 42% of all Americans — including half of Black Americans and 45% of Hispanics — up from only 30% in 2000. Moreover, as pointed out within a recent Alliance for Patient Access letter, obesity is related to the “leading causes of both preventable and premature death,” including cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. And it costs the health care system in excess of $170 billion every year. 

Federal Plans Lack Coverage 

Yet to date, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has excluded obesity treatments from Medicare Part D coverage. The American people want this coverage, and many hope this is the year CMS finally provides it.  

The clinicians’ letter urged the Senate and House of Representatives to include in their end-of-year spending bill a specific provision that “encourages CMS to provide Medicare coverage for all FDA approved therapies for the treatment of obesity.” More than 400 clinicians representing 45 states and the District of Columbia signed the letter. 

Embracing New Treatments 

The development of these drugs is a potential game-changer in the fights against obesity, its myriad comorbidities from chronic pain to COVID-19, and even the socioeconomic and racial inequities that continue to plague the health care system. As the country continues to age, obesity will become a greater and more expensive challenge for American seniors and the payers of their insurance. That medical therapies are coming through the research pipeline should be celebrated and embraced by federal lawmakers and regulators. 

For the millions of Americans who are working to better control obesity, new medications may be a necessary supplement to lifestyle modifications. Here’s hoping Congress and CMS can come together on this, and soon. 

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