Murkowski Introduces Legislation to Curb Obesity and Cut Long-Term Health Care Costs

Senator: Health Concern has Morphed into Economic Crisis

Senator Lisa Murkowski joined five of her Senate colleagues in introducing the bipartisan Treat and Reduce Obesity Act that would help prevent chronic diseases and lower health care costs by addressing America’s growing obesity epidemic. This legislation gives Medicare beneficiaries and their healthcare providers additional tools to reduce obesity by improving access to weight-loss counseling and new prescription drugs for chronic weight management, among other provisions.

“Obesity increased last year in only six states in the country—and unfortunately Alaska is one of them. There was even a study conducted recently finding a link between domestic violence and obesity in young Alaska Natives,” said Murkowski. “We must do what we can to improve how we treat and inform Americans, especially Alaskans – because bad nutrition decisions today and tomorrow can lead to costly physical ailments in the future to individuals and the nation. This is not just a health concern anymore, it has morphed into an economic crisis as well.”

Health care costs related to obesity total nearly $200 billion each year. Furthermore, nearly 70 percent of Americans are overweight or obese, and 42 percent of Americans are projected to become obese by 2030. Obesity increases the risk for chronic diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Co-sponsors of this bill include Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), Chris Coons (D-DE) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA).

The Treat and Reduce Obesity Act would:

  • Allow Medicare to cover additional obesity treatments such as prescription drugs for chronic weight management, which Medicaid already covers in over 20 states. (Weight loss surgery is the only obesity treatment tool currently covered by Medicare.)
  • Require the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to highlight Medicare coverage of intensive behavioral counseling for obesity for seniors and their doctors.
  • Give CMS authority to enhance Medicare beneficiary access to benefits for intensive behavioral counseling by allowing additional types of providers to offer this service.