Medicare paying for obesity counseling, a step forward or $$$ down the drain?

CMS recently announced that Medicare will be paying for obesity counseling.

Reading through the regulation, it is specific and in our opinion, reasonably robust.  We don’t know the payment rates yet, which will truly show CMS’ commitment toward obesity management.  As we all know, it all comes down to money and politics, or am I too much of a cynic?

The benefit now involves: Beneficiaries with body mass index values of 30 or more can receive weekly in-person intensive behavioral therapy visits for one month, followed by visits every two weeks for an additional five months, fully paid by Medicare with no copayment.  There is language about showing progress towards a goal to continue the benefit.

As commented in the MedPage article, will commercial insurance follow suit?  “Healthcare Reform” demanded insurers to cover preventative services, but not as explicitly as the new Medicare provision. And as most of the damage of obesity is done prior to Medicare eligibility, will any investment in obesity counseling by Medicare improve anything but the revenue for disease management companies who know how to work the system?

So we challenge you, dear reader, is Medicare paying for obesity counseling a step forward in taking the obesity epidemic seriously, or a Medicare “bridge to nowhere” (for our friends in Alaska)?


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