April 5, 2017

Cassidy, Carper Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill to Help Reduce Obesity

WASHINGTON— Today, US Senators Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA), and Tom Carper (D-DE) introduced legislation to help lower health care costs and prevent chronic diseases by addressing America’s growing obesity crisis. The Treat and Reduce Obesity Act gives Medicare beneficiaries and their health care providers additional tools to reduce obesity by improving access to weight-loss counseling and new prescription drugs for chronic weight management.


US Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Chris Coons (D-DE) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) are also original cosponsors on this legislation. An identical bill was introduced in the House by Representatives Erik Paulsen (R-MN) and Ron Kind (D-WI).


Health care costs related to obesity total nearly $200 billion each year. Furthermore, nearly 70 percent of Americans are overweight or obese, and 42 percent of Americans are projected to become obese by 2030. Obesity increases the risk for chronic diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.


“As a doctor, I’ve seen obesity’s effect on a person’s physical and mental wellness,” said Dr. Cassidy. “We must work together to make effective treatment of obesity a priority. This bipartisan legislation will lower health costs and give patients access to proper tools for better health.”


“Too many Americans struggle with obesity and being overweight and, unless we take action, for the first time in our country’s history, our children will live shorter lives than their parents,” said Senator Carper. “I often say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and helping people struggling with their weight to get healthy is one of the best ways to improve their overall health. This legislation will help the federal government implement a robust strategy for reining in obesity and ensuring that our vital health care programs, like Medicare and Tricare, provide Americans with every available treatment and tool for reducing obesity’s physical, social and financial costs.”


Click here to read the full legislative text.


The Treat and Reduce Obesity Act would, among other provisions:


•    Allow Medicare to cover additional obesity treatments such as new, FDA-approved prescription drugs for chronic weight management, already covered by the Veterans Health Administration, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and the Indian Health Service.


•    Give CMS authority to improve Medicare beneficiary access to benefits for intensive behavioral counseling by allowing additional types of providers to offer this service.  Fewer than 100,000 Medicare beneficiaries have taken advantage of this benefit, even though 13 million seniors are obese.