AMA Recognizes Obesity as a Disease - Part 2

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  • Read part 1 of AMA Recognizes Obesity as a Disease




    Now that the American Medical Association has declared obesity a disease, the question of where do we go from here is on the minds of many. The labeling of obesity as a disease has prompted much debate and there are those who think the definition has been planted in shaky ground. On the other hand, there are those who think that too little was done and that the definition does not cover all the possibilities regarding the root causes of the disease.

    Nikhil Dhurandhar, vice president of the Obesity Society, believes that the new definition of obesity as a disease is too narrow and he states that obesity may in fact be more than one disease. 

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    Dhurandhar has solid criteria for his contention. He is the pilot of a landmark study that associated some viral antibodies with obesity. Of the 500 subjects who participated in the study, 30% of the obese participants tested positive for the virus compared to only 11% of the normal weight individuals. 

    In addition to viruses, scientists have discovered 84 potential contributors to obesity. Dhurandhar points out the futility of dieting if obesity is actually the result of a virus and adds that if obesity is a cluster of diseases rather than a single disease then treatments should be individualized to personal needs.

    The Role of Physicians
    Now that obesity is to be recognized as a disease, the role of the physician should change to meet the adjustment. Up to this point in time, non-surgical preventive care has been sparse. The rate of physician counseling about obesity has declined as the rate of obesity has risen. While this standard of conversation is both necessary and important, insurance companies have been in no special hurry to cover them.

    Changes in policy that would allow reimbursement for physician counseling and physician referrals to effective programs would enhance the potential that either one or both would take place.

    Problems that present regarding such expansions are that physicians are time restricted in the window of an office visit as well as underskilled in behavioral counseling. This standard of counseling involves 6-12 months of dietary counseling, exercise, and behavioral counseling. Up to this point, professionals with these capabilities could only be reimbursed if their cliental were diagnosed with a disease. Should reimbursement for preventative care become allowed for these services, the patient would not only benefit but the cost-effective services offered by this brand of professional could help offset the escalating expense of healthcare due to their moderate fees for service.

    Access to reimbursable programs for patients would hopefully jump start the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMMS)  to press for better services in the treatment of obesity. At this moment the reimbursement policy of the CMMS is difficult for consumers. If this changes, the challenge of preventing obesity from becoming an expensive and life-threatening illness can be better met.    


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    Continue to part 3 of this article.  

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Published On: August 23, 2013