The U.S. Medicare program for the elderly will cover counseling for obesity in an effort to reduce the condition that has reached epidemic proportions and leads to serious
health problems. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it will cover screening and counseling
for obesity as a free preventive service for Medicare beneficiaries.
Coverage is effective immediately.
Advocates hope that CMS’ decision may encourage private insurers and Medicaid to begin covering obesity screening and counseling as well.
Under the new rules, beneficiaries whose body mass index is 30 or higher would be eligible for counseling services. The covered benefits include one face-to-face counseling session every week for a month, then counseling every other week for an additional five months. Beneficiaries who have lost at least 6.6 pounds at the end of six months would be eligible for six more monthly counseling sessions.
The coverage is in line with current recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which recommends intensive counseling and behavioral interventions for obese adults.
More than a third of Medicare beneficiaries have BMIs over 30, the cutoff for obesity, according to CMS.