About one in three U.S. adults live with obesity. Now state policymakers are building upon federal efforts to expand treatment options to the people who need them.
State Action on Obesity Treatment
Medicare is now under pressure to expand coverage for obesity treatments. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services presently exclude obesity medication from coverage, despite the fact that medication is often a part of comprehensive treatment, along with nutrition counseling, psychological support or bariatric surgery.
With just one in five Americans qualifying for these federal plans, states are making their own bid to address weight-related health outcomes. California and Massachusetts are leading the legislative effort in 2024 to expand access to obesity treatments, with other states considering similar action. Leaders have begun by reforming state employees’ health coverage and Medicaid, while looking for additional ways to expand treatment options to more state residents.
Obesity Medication & Patient Access
New treatments and medications could hold significant promise for patients living with obesity, if they can access them. The serious health consequences of obesity — and the potential for those risks to be significantly reduced by medication — demonstrate the urgent medical need for treatment access.
Obesity has been classed as a chronic disease for more than a decade, and treatment options have seen significant progress. Programs to support healthy eating and activity levels have been targeted at children and underserved communities, including those who lack access to healthy food or quality information, but obesity rates continue to rise.
Comorbidity & Cost Savings
Some projections have even found that health plan coverage for obesity treatments could reduce medical spending for other diseases, as patients reduce not only their body weight but also their risk for comorbid conditions.
Obesity contributes to and worsens cancer, hypertension, COPD, organ diseases, diabetes and stroke. The COVID-19 virus was more deadly in people living with obesity, and patients with obesity who’d contracted the virus were more than twice as likely to end up in the hospital than people of a lower weight.
In short, obesity accompanies or exacerbates every leading cause of preventable death. Treating the long-term health conditions of an aging American population will require access to comprehensive, patient-centered treatment for obesity. State and federal efforts mark an encouraging step forward.