Prepared by Christopher Gallagher, OCC Washington Representative
Dr. Angela Fitch Joins HHS Listening Session on Obesity On January 27th, Obesity Medicine Association President-Elect and Obesity Action Coalition Board Member Dr. Angela Fitch joined other stakeholder groups for a roundtable “listening session” with HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. The event, which was coordinated through the Secretary’s office, focused on obesity and nutrition. Dr. Fitch joined representatives from other stakeholder groups, including Trust for America’s Health, Food Research Action Center, Obesity Care Advocacy Network, National Urban League, Notah Begay III Foundation, UnidosUS and Salud America.
Many stakeholders spoke passionately about the critical need to address health disparities and social determinants of health — highlighting numerous programs aimed at these issues such as the CDC’s Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program. Others focused on lifestyle interventions that promote access to better nutrition choices and physical activity. While Dr. Fitch and Obesity Care Advocacy Network representative Tammy Boyd concurred with the need for preventative care, they also spoke to the need for access to, and comprehensive coverage of all evidence-based obesity treatment avenues. Both highlighted the policy provisions of the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act as important steps that Congress and the Administration should support and implement to expand access to care. Dr. Fitch also stressed the need for parity in telemedicine coverage to ensure enhanced access to all members of the obesity care team.
OCC Ramping Up Efforts to Pass TROA Ahead of OCW January was a month full of activity surrounding the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act (TROA). During the month, OCC advocates visited with more than 40 congressional offices, which resulted in the following 16 House offices cosponsoring TROA! Rep. Adams, Alma S. [D-NC-12] Rep. Krishnamoorthi, Raja [D-IL-8] Rep. Horsford, Steven [D-NV-4] Rep. Jayapal, Pramila [D-WA-7] Rep. Cicilline, David N. [D-RI-1] Rep. Rice, Kathleen M. [D-NY-4] Rep. Johnson, Eddie Bernice [D-TX-30] Rep. Aguilar, Pete [D-CA-31] Rep. Moulton, Seth [D-MA-6] Rep. Gibbs, Bob [R-OH-7] Rep. Gomez, Jimmy [D-CA-34] Rep. Sires, Albio [D-NJ-8] Rep. Bacon, Don [R-NE-2] Rep. Harder, Josh [D-CA-10] Rep. DesJarlais, Scott [R-TN-4] Rep. McKinley, David B. [R-WV-1]
This brings cosponsor levels for TROA up to 125 in the House and 17 in the Senate. TROA will also be the focus of virtual Hill visits during Obesity Care Week (OCW) where trained OCC advocates plan to meet with more than 100 congressional offices that week.
On January 27th, OAC sent a strong letter to the Chairs and Ranking Members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee and its Health Subcommittee — urging them to formally request a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score and hold hearings surrounding TROA. In the letter, OAC President Joe Nadglowski highlighted that “given the ongoing societal threat from COVID and its demonstrably dangerous relationship with obesity, we are troubled that Congress continues to be complacent about acting on this legislation. COVID has shown us first-hand what happens when we don’t care for people with obesity — both medically and as a society.”
PA House Passes HB 293 for Medicaid Coverage of Obesity Drugs On January 11th, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives unanimously adopted final passage of Pennsylvania State Representative Donna Oberlander’s House Bill (HB) 293, which would allow FDA-approved medications that treat obesity to be covered under the state’s Medicaid program. This is a major step and puts pressure on the Pennsylvania Senate to take action on Senate companion bill 782, which is being championed by Senator Joe Pittman.
Wisconsin Obesity Groups Push for State Employee IBT and Drug Coverage On January 14th, the Wisconsin State Chapter of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, Wisconsin Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Obesity Action Coalition submitted comments to the Wisconsin Employee Trust Funds’ (ETF) Group Insurance Board (GIB) — urging the GIB to adopt state employee health plan coverage for pharmacotherapy and medical nutrition therapy (aka nutrition counseling) for the treatment of overweight or obesity. The comments also highlighted how the Navitus Pharmacy & Therapeutics (P&T) Committee for ETF recently completed a clinical review of pharmacotherapy options available to treat obesity and how the P&T Committee designated the anti-obesity medication class in general as a “may add.” This means their customers, including ETF, should work with their PBM account manager to add coverage for this category if they so desire. Wisconsin advocates urged GIB to act on this recommendation “to ensure that state employees have the same access to the broad scope of obesity drugs — including both generic and branded products that are currently available to Wisconsin Medicaid recipients.”