Prepared by Christopher Gallagher, OCC Washington Representative
Registration Closes February 15th for OCAN’s Advocacy Day!
On Thursday, February 28, 2019, the Obesity Care Advocacy Network (OCAN) will host an Advocacy Day to encourage support for the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act (TROA), which will be reintroduced earlier that week. Attendees will meet with Capitol Hill staff between 9:00 AM and 3:30 PM and also have the opportunity to participate in a late afternoon Political Action Committee (PAC) reception to honor a Senator or Representative who has championed efforts to better promote patient access to, and coverage of, obesity treatment services. Registration closes February 15th!
TROA Champions in Place for 116th Congress
In early February, Representative Brett Guthrie (R-KY) announced his willingness to take the republican lead on the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act (TROA) – replacing former Congressman Erik Paulsen (R-MN) who lost his re-election bid in 2018. With Guthrie joining Representative Ron Kind (D-WI) and Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Tom Carper (D-DE) renewing their lead roles on the Senate side, reintroduction of TROA is slated for the second half of February.
OCC STAR Program Update: State Teams Come Together
The first conference call/webinar for all State Advocacy Representatives (STARs) from the Obesity Care Continuum groups (AND, OMA, TOS, ASMBS, and OAC) took place January 17th. The webinar allowed STARs to discuss next steps surrounding advocacy priorities and how to coordinate an ongoing dialogue among their fellow STARs within their respective state.
With the arrival of February, OCC Federal and State Affairs staff liaisons began bringing STARs together at the individual state level. Priority one for State STAR teams will be to request a face-to-face meeting with their Governor to educate them about the latest George Washington University/STOP Obesity Alliance study on the status of obesity coverage within Medicaid and state employee plans across the country.
Update on State Advocacy Efforts
Massachusetts: Efforts continue in Massachusetts to pass legislation to prohibit discrimination based on height or weight. Massachusetts State Senator Becca Rausch (D) and State Representative Tram T. Ngyen (D) have introduced SD. 1581/HD. 1683, respectively. This legislation would make discrimination on the basis of height and weight unlawful.
Kentucky: OAC Board Member Amber Huett Garcia is assisting newly elected Kentucky Representative Josie Raymond on similiar legislation to the Rausch/Nguyen bill in Massachusetts.
Wisconsin: OCC STARs are reaching out to newly elected Governor Evers (D) and Lieutenant Governor Barnes (D) about reinstating the bariatric surgery benefit for state employees beginning in 2020. Years of advocacy efforts by the WI ASMBS State Chapter – coupled with a new Governor – could result in victory this year on this issue and further progress on other treatment avenues in the future.
Connecticut: State Senator (and bariatric surgery patient) introduced Senate Bill 317 "to require health insurance coverage for bariatric and metabolic surgery." At the time of this report, the legislation had been scheduled for a public hearing on February 14th before the Joint Committee on Insurance and Real Estate.
Georgia: The ASMBS GA Chapter is working on getting legislation introduced that would establish a pilot program again for bariatric surgery coverage for state employees. The idea would be to have a 4-year pilot to provide coverage for 1000 state employees (250 a year). This effort would be coupled with a major media campaign to publicize the effort.