I noticed an article on the new health care law this morning in our local paper originally published in USA Today. The article is about weight loss counseling for the obese patient and how it will be reimbursed by future and existing weight loss plans. Here are the highlights:
- Screening and counseling for obesity must be covered with no co-payments or deductibles (cost-sharing).
- A health care provider screens a patient’s body mass index and determines if that patients is obese, then either provides weight-loss guidance or referral to a professional service.
- The American Medical Association recently decided to recognize obesity as a disease that requires medical intervention. Many people disagree with this.
- Obesity increases the risk of many other diseases that raises the cost of treating these diseases about $1400 more when compared to a healthy weight person.
- Under the law, plans can have doctors do weight-loss counseling or “use medically appropriate” alternatives to meet the requirement
- Currently Medicare pays for screenings and preventive services for obesity. Appointments have to be with a primary care physician, nurse practitioner, or physicians’ assistant and patients have to show progress with weight loss.
- Currently, the registered dietitian or other qualified nutrition professionals are not included in the group to be reimbursed for weight loss counseling.
Here is where some conflicts are beginning to surface. Who is going to be reimbursed and more importantly, what exactly is a qualified nutrition professional and what does a “medically appropriate alternative” mean?
I admit I am biased in support for the registered dietitian in this case, but others criticize RDs for our association with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) formerly the American Dietetic Association. But that is for another discussion.
I have previously published some posts on what exactly is a “nutritionist”, so I refer you to that post for some clarification, in my opinion.
It will be interesting to watch how this issue will be resolved.