Posted 8/7/2015

Prepared by Christopher Gallagher, ASMBS Washington Representative

Update on Treat and Reduce Obesity Act

OCC groups continue to lobby on behalf of the the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act of 2015 (S.1509/HR 2404). At the time of this report, the legislation had surpassed a major milestone on the House side as now more than 100 House members have cosponsored the bill. There are currently 10 cosponsors on the Senate side.

Sponsors of the legislation are currently drafting a letter to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in an effort to secure a financial score for the bill as many legislators will not even consider supporting the bill until they know the cost of the legislation.

OCC Letter to State Policymakers — Highlighting New NCOIL Policy Supporting Obesity Care

On July 19, 2015, the National Conference of Insurance Legislators

(NCOIL) Executive Committee passed by a vote of 13-3, a resolution in “Support of Efforts to Reduce the Incidence of Obesity and Chronic Disease.” The membership of NCOIL consists of the chairs and members of insurance committees in state legislatures across the country.

The purpose of the resolution is to encourage state policymakers to focus on increasing access to obesity pharmacotherapy and bariatric surgery in Health Exchange benchmark plans, Medicaid and other state health programs as well as Qualified Health Plans offered through the exchanges.

In an effort to drive more support for obesity treatment coverage, the OCC sent out a letter highlighting the new NCOIL obesity policy to all state health care committee Chairs and State Insurance Commissioners.

TEXT OF OCC LETTER TO STATE POLICYMAKERS:

The Obesity Care Continuum (OCC) would like to make you aware of new policy recently adopted by the National Conference of Insurance Legislators (NCOIL) to “Support Efforts to Reduce the Incidence of Obesity and Chronic Disease.” As you may know, the membership of NCOIL consists of the chairs and members of insurance committees in state legislatures across the country.

The goal of this new policy is to encourage state policymakers to focus on increasing access to obesity pharmacotherapy and bariatric surgery in Health Exchange benchmark plans, Medicaid and other state health programs as well as Qualified Health Plans offered through the exchanges.

The resolution reads as follows:

NCOIL urges the 50 State Legislatures, health departments and other state agencies and institutions to make the prevention and treatment of obesity a high priority and to work to ameliorate obesity-related problems, such as worker productivity and absenteeism, as well as medically related costs, while improving the health and wellness of all persons through the following measures:

  • Encourage states that operate their own exchanges or those with federal-state partnership exchanges to consider the selection of benchmark plans that allow for access to the entire range of treatment options for wellness and preventive policies, including treatments for obesity such as pharmacotherapy and bariatric surgery
  • Encourage the implementation of chronic disease management programs (CDMPs) in state Medicaid and other state health programs, or to seek out other sources of program funding for CDMPs, such as grants other public or private programs, that emphasize the management of obesity, including coverage of the full range of obesity treatments, particularly new innovative treatments such as pharmacotherapy and bariatric surgery.
  • Encourage state exchanges to incentivize Qualified Health Plans to include coverage of the full spectrum of obesity treatments or to implement CDMPs that include the full range of obesity treatments, including new innovative measures such as pharmacotherapy and bariatric surgery

The adoption of this new policy by NCOIL resulted from the leadership of New York State Assemblyman Kevin Cahill and Louisiana State Representative Marcus Hunter who worked throughout the last two years in crafting the final language that was adopted during the July NCOIL meeting. Adoption of this new policy is even more remarkable given that NCOIL has never passed any resolutions or model legislation that has focused on any specific disease category.

Given that few benchmark plans selected for state health exchanges include coverage for the full spectrum of obesity treatment, or require chronic disease management programs for obesity, it is evident that this recent action by NCOIL signals that state policymakers acknowledge the critical need to start treating obesity seriously! Therefore, the OCC urges you to work with your colleagues in the state legislature and regulatory agencies to ensure that the citizens of your state have access to, and coverage of, the full spectrum of evidence-based obesity treatment services.

Should you have any questions or need additional information regarding the new NCOIL obesity policy, please contact OCC Washington Coordinator Chris Gallagher either by telephone at 571-235-6475 or via email at chris@potomaccurrents.com. Thank you.

ASMBS President-Elect to Meet with First Lady’s Office regarding the Let’s Move Campaign

During August, ASMBS President-Elect Dr. Raul Rosenthal will join with other leaders from the obesity community in meeting with Debra Eschmeyer, Executive Director of the Let’s Move campaign and Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition in the Office of the First Lady. The goal of the meeting is to persuade the Let’s Move Campaign and the First Lady’s office to move beyond just prevention efforts and start focusing on treatment for those who are already affected by obesity. The September report will feature an update on this meeting.

Congressional Sign-On Letter to HHS Regarding Obesity and Gender Discrimination

The OCC is working with Representatives Gwen Moore (D-WI) and Watson-Coleman (D-NJ) to encourage House Members to sign on to a letter to HHS Secretary Burwell — focusing on sexual discrimination. At the time of this report, Representative Moore had just begun circulating the letter during the August Congressional recess.