The upside of this particular piece of law-in-waiting is that it would help people who struggle with obesity. The downside is that the majority of bills that are introduced never become laws; and the double downside is that our present Congress has passed fewer laws than any other Congress in United States history. Then again, you never know.
Maybe Just Maybe
On June 19, 2013, Senators Tom Carper and Lisa Murkowski, along with U.S. Representatives Bill Cassidy and Ron Kind, introduced the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act.
This legislation is meant to provide Medicare recipients and their healthcare providers with useful tools that help treat and reduce obesity by improving access for screening and counseling services. It also will make new prescription drugs for chronic weight management more easily available.
The Treat and Reduce Obesity Act would specifically require the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to provide more information to seniors and their physicians about Medicare coverage for behavioral counseling for obesity. The legislation also would allow different types of health care providers to offer these same services, thereby expanding beneficiary access to therapy.
In addition, the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act would allow coverage of prescription drugs for obesity under Medicare Part D as well as coverage for prescription drugs for people who are overweight with one or more co-morbidities.
The legislation recognizes obesity as a complex disease that requires a multifaceted approach of behavioral, nutritional, pharmaceutical, and psychosocial treatments.
The Treat and Reduce Obesity Act is supported by the Obesity Action Coalition, the Obesity Society, the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, the American Society of Bariatric Physcians, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Do you remember the old Schoolhouse Rock animated short films? There were Multiplication Rock and Grammar Rock. There were Science Rock and Computer Rock. There also was an offering that explained how a bill becomes a law.
If this was served up as a question — "How does a bill become a law?" — the Schoolhouse Rockers of the 1980s would answer that a bill becomes a law through a very difficult process. The current day answer to that same question might be that bills have pretty much stopped becoming laws altogether. We don't really do that anymore.
The Treat and Reduce Obesity Bill was sent to committee on the same day that it was introduced. It will probably die in committee and be buried in a shallow grave. The prognosis for enactment is a 1% chance.
The bill has only a 5% chance of making it through committee. Unfortunately, from 2011 to 2013 only 11% of bills made it past committee and of that 11% only 3% were passed into law.
Stranger things have happened though, and at least a proposal was made. While obesity finally has been recognized as a disease, the finish line is still far away.