Today the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced today that it will begin covering payment of screening for obesity, a nutritional assessment for those who qualify and counseling services through primary care providers.
Obesity is a large problem in the United States (no pun intended) and unabated can lead to many chronic illnesses, not the least of which are heart attack, stroke and diabetes. This preventive program is another measure via the Affordable Care Act and is a good weapon to have in the preventive services arsenal.
Like so many things in life, prevention of illness or disability is preferred to treatment of the same. Motivated obese Medicare recipients will likely reap the most health benefit from these newly covered services.
What I think is unfortunate is that the medical aspect of obesity treatment is not being linked to the mental health aspect of it. The way the system is currently designed, payment for these services will only be provided when a person goes through a primary care practitioner, which means a physician, nurse practitioner, physician assistant or clinical nurse specialist in a family medicine, internal medicine, or geriatric medicine.
I entrust my health care to practitioners in these specialties. In fact, I have always chosen a family practitioner because of their broad knowledge base. But I think counseling, even for obesity, belongs in the realm of mental health. The problem of obesity is a complicated one and, it seems to me, to call for the integrated services of a medical practitioner and a mental health practitioner for the most positive outcome for the individual.
As a taxpayer, I understand that the cost of mental health services in some areas may be cost prohibitive at this time. As an individual who understand you don't change a lifetime of habits overnight, I lament this well-meaning but inadequate decision.
How do you feel about these newly covered services?