Battle Against Obesity Could Use Federal Might

Weight Loss© Vadym Petrochenko / Getty Images / Canva
Op-Ed by State Rep. Danielle Friel Otten, D-Chester

Millions of Americans battle obesity each and every day. Individuals struggling to manage body weight typically rely on methods such as dieting or working out in hopes of finding a cure for an uncurable disease. Oftentimes, these approaches have limited success, because obesity is not a lifestyle choice, but rather a chronic disease that in many cases requires medical support. Despite this growing consensus, Medicare beneficiaries with obesity are left without any help in acquiring the regulated and approved treatments and medications that can help them to live healthier lives.

For more than 20 years, Medicare has been limited by discriminatory statutes that prohibit the coverage of anti-obesity medications (AOMs). This lack of coverage often leads to people fighting obesity on their own, or worse, falling victim to predatory scams and using unregulated and sometimes dangerous products that claim to provide the same benefits of prescribed AOMs. Obesity is a chronic disease, and modern advances in specialty treatments have provided hope and healthier lives for countless Americans, but Medicare patients have been left behind.

However, all hope is not lost. A game-changing piece of federal legislation, known as the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act (TROA), would work to eliminate these discriminatory and outdated statutes so that all Medicare beneficiaries have access to the treatments they need and deserve. If passed into law, the TROA would ensure general coverage of AOMs for all Medicare beneficiaries and increase the overall health and wellbeing of Americans across the country.

As an added benefit, researchers have estimated $175 billion in cost offsets to Medicare in the first 10 years alone, by avoiding many of the expensive and complex cascading health outcomes related to obesity. Over 30 years, these offsets would increase to $700 billion. These are major savings that will contribute to the health and vitality of our economy and healthcare system for years to come, by reducing costs and improving health outcomes for patients.

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The Treat and Reduce Obesity Act has bipartisan and bicameral support, but Congress has yet to hold a hearing or a vote on this legislation. I urge Senator Casey, Senator Fetterman, and Pennsylvania’s U.S. House delegation to support and prioritize passing the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act this year.

In Pennsylvania and across the country, Americans are counting on Congress to push the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act forward. This legislation would improve access to preventative medications, ensure accessible treatment options, and relieve the strain on our health care system by helping to reduce the prevalence of obesity-related health conditions. Best of all, through the expansion of coverage and support under public and private health insurance plans, TROA would help families and individuals access the resources they need to care for themselves and live healthier lives.

Danielle Friel Otten is a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, serving the 155th Legislative District in central Chester County, PA.

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