Posts Tagged - ‘overweight’

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Healthcare Reform Provisions and Obesity Treatment

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Image: Combined Media under CC 3.0

Tomorrow, several of the earliest provisions of the healthcare reform law will go into effect. Many of these involve preventative care.

The paradox with a lot of health insurance plans is that they typically do not pay for medically supervised diets or nutritional counseling for the overweight and obese. (They may cover gastric bypass or other weight loss surgery, but some patients are not considered morbidly obese enough to be eligible for reimbursement.) However, they will cover the more expensive cost of treating related conditions like type 2 diabetes or sleep apnea when they are later developed.

The legislation looks to change that. Here is how it will change:

  • Recommended preventative care treatments are covered without co-payments or co-insurance percentages for policyholders, including behavioral counseling and obesity screening.
  • Public health initiatives will make calorie counts more visible, making it easier for people to eat healthily and lose/maintain their weight.
  • Comparative effectiveness research will be undertaken to determine if insurers will be required to cover gym memberships, therapy, or special meal programs.
  • An advisory group will look into the effectiveness and risks of weight loss drugs and surgery, possibly requiring coverage of those deemed more effective than harmful.
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Should Health Insurance Plans Cover Gastric Bypass Surgery?

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Image: EmerandSam under CC 3.0

Obesity is a condition that impacts the health of millions of Americans. There are several options in dealing with it: diet and exercise is the most obvious. An increasing number of health insurers are encouraging the former through wellness programs.

However, success rates are relatively low. Some are proposing gastric bypass surgery as a solution. Some health insurance plans cover the $30,000 surgical procedure for the morbidly obese, but others believe that the investment in preventative care. Obese teenagers, especially, are increasingly taking advantage of it.

By no means is surgery a panacea: some people manage to regain all their weight (though fewer than the 95% who do so with diet and exercise), and up to a third of patients have medical complications. Still, in most cases gastric bypass seems to cure type 2 diabetes (which is expensive to treat for many years). The Atlantic‘s Marc Ambinder, himself a gastric bypass patient, speculates that paying for the procedure for all obese Americans would end up costing less than the medical complications associated with obesity. However, it is an extreme option of last-resort, and is an over $30 billion-worth pipe dream.

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Obese Mothers-To-Be Cost Hospitals More

Monday, June 7th, 2010

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The obesity epidemic has resorted in an increasing number of pregnant women who are already overweight prior to becoming pregnant. Although losing weight prior to conceiving is ideal, that is not always possible. Unfortunately, both the baby and mother can experience serious complications, which her health insurance plan must pay for.

As a result, hospitals must spend far more money on delivery for obese mothers. Caring for a premature birth–which is more likely in seriously obese women–helps drive the cost up to $200,000 for that high-risk birth. By contrast, a normal delivery costs about $13,000. The increased expense of labor and specialized supplies is passed on through higher health insurance rates for all women.

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Do Group Health Insurance Wellness Incentives Actually Work?

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

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An increasing number of companies are offering wellness incentives to their employees, in order to inspire them to maintain a healthy weight or quit smoking. Many of these benefits include the opportunity to have a higher portion of their health insurance premiums paid by the employer.

Tobacco use and obesity among the American workforce costs companies billions of dollars in increased health care costs, so it is a worthy goal. However, there are some doubts that the incentives are actually effective.

According to a study from Cornell University, the average weight loss in several of those employer programs was just one pound; too little to make a significant difference in health outcomes or group health insurance rates.

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Obese Women Less Likely To Get Cervical Cancer Screening

Monday, May 17th, 2010

Image: Choose Hope

Obesity is one of the most pressing public health issues today. It costs our health care system millions of dollars each year. While that needs to be dealt with, the stigma against being overweight may be even more dangerous and costly to the average health insurance plan.

A recent study suggests that obese people are more likely to delay medical treatment for unrelated illnesses (which are easier to treat and riskier), in order to avoid uncomfortable conversations with physicians. It’s a fine line between advice and harassment at times. The example given is with cervical cancer screening: obese women are less likely to receive cervical exams than women of normal weight. As a result, their conditions may worsen–and cervical cancer may not be caught until its advanced stages, when it’s far more expensive to treat.

Why is this the case? The survey’s authors believe that obese women may be more embarrassed, worried about negative reactions from providers, and concerned about equipment and coverings that are too small for them. It’s a reminder that doctors and health insurance providers shouldn’t neglect other health concerns while fighting obesity.

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Health Insurance To Fight Childhood Obesity?

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

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The House of Representatives recently released a list of over 70 recommendations intended to reduce the childhood obesity epidemic, upon First Lady Michelle Obama’s request.

One of their recommendations is that family health insurance plans cover the prevention and treatment of obesity in children. Reducing the percentage of overweight and obese children is predicted to save our health care system up to $150 billion annually.

Services these health insurance providers could offer include visits to a nutritionist (with no or nominal co-payment), counseling, and tips on exercise and other forms of healthy living.

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Backlash from Michelle Obama’s Obesity Remarks

Friday, February 5th, 2010

Michelle Obama has been praised for her commitment to reducing childhood obesity which if applied could bring more affordable health insurance. The first lady spoke about childhood obesity during her campaign encouraging the group to join her anti-obesity plan to help kids get their weight under control. However, something she said about her own daughters during her recent speech has stirred up quite a bit of controversy.

Obama bought to light the seriousness of the childhood obesity epidemic and then she took it to a personal level. She told the crowd how she and President Obama had dealt with weight concerns with their children. “We went to our pediatrician all the time,” Obama said. “I thought my kids were perfect — they are and always will be — but he [the doctor] warned that he was concerned that something was getting off balance.”

“I didn’t see the changes. And that’s also part of the problem, or part of the challenge. It’s often hard to see changes in your own kids when you’re living with them day in and day out,” she added. “But we often simply don’t realize that those kids are our kids, and our kids could be in danger of becoming obese. We always think that only happens to someone else’s kid — and I was in that position.”

Obama said the doctor suggested she first look at her daughters’ body mass index (BMI). The minor changes she subsequently made in their daily habits, Obama said, made all the difference.

Her comments have some feeling Obama went too far. Some say the first lady’s comments may be perceived as a focus on weight and dieting, which sends the wrong message to the public. Disorder activists have come forward expressing concern that her message would confuse families by encouraging them to focus on diet.

Others praised Obama’s message saying it was a good way to connect to parents with overweight or obese children who may feel singled out or alone.

There are a lot of parents who can relate to what Obama had to say. Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. And childhood obesity is particularly troubling because the extra pounds often start kids on the path to health problems that were once confined to adults, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Health issues related to weight significantly increase the cost of health insurance for everyone.

Several health related national organizations including the Center for Disease Control are also trying to fight childhood obesity. They too encourage healthy lifestyle habits, including healthy eating and diet, and physical activity, to lower the risk of becoming obese and developing related diseases.

The first lady has said when she tucks her girls into bed at night, she thinks about wanting them to happy and healthy and to “have every chance to follow their aspirations and ambitions.”

Obama said what she wanted for her daughters she wants “for every single child in this country.”

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