This week, we recognize National Obesity Care Week. This is an epidemic that impacts more than 90 million Americans. It’s not a subject that’s discussed often, but we should support those who are striving to overcome obesity. Much like mental illness, obesity often carries a stigma that prevents people from seeking help. We can break down those barriers if we confront this nationwide challenge. It is an issue that is not going away. In fact, the obesity rate in 2016 was at an all-time high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Among Medicare beneficiaries, obesity rates doubled from 1987 to 2002, and nearly doubled again by 2016. According to the National Institutes of Health, obesity and related complications are now the leading cause of death nationally – and it’s not getting better.
Obesity carries many serious health risks, and in many cases the treatments should be more than “eat less and exercise more.” We have to treat obesity like the disease it is. That’s why I am cosponsoring H.R. 1530, the bipartisan Treat and Reduce Obesity Act.
By expanding coverage for Medicare beneficiaries to include treatment from a diverse range of health care providers specializing in obesity care, and including FDA-approved medications for chronic weight management to be covered by Medicare Part D, we have the opportunity to pass a common-sense and fiscally responsible response to an incredibly expensive problem. According to the CDC, the medical care costs of obesity in the United States exceeded $147 billion in 2008. That puts an immense burden on programs like Medicare.
Moreover, while millions of Americans continue to struggle with this epidemic, health care professionals are held back by outdated government regulations that get in the way of current science and technology, and ultimately, solutions. That’s why I am supporting this legislation to increase access to treatments for our seniors.
New research also suggests that obesity in middle-aged people may be linked to higher rates of cancer, and it knows no boundaries. Men and women of all races between ages 50 and 64 who are striving to overcome obesity may be at a higher risk of some types of cancer. Additionally, there are other serious health risks including coronary disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and high blood pressure.
Urgent action is needed. Medicare is facing insolvency in coming years and more and more Americans are finding themselves at risk of obesity. The Treat and Reduce Obesity Act can help alleviate both of those problems by saving critical Medicare funds, while increasing access to care.
If you would like to learn more about the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act, or other efforts to increase access to health care, please call my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 225-2015, my Hilliard office at (614) 771-4968, my Lancaster office at (740) 654-2654, or my Wilmington office at (937) 283-7049.