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Posted 5/4/2020

Prepared by Christopher Gallagher, OCC Washington Representative

TROA Champions Support TROA Inclusion in next COVID-19 Relief Package

At the time of this report, House and Senate champions of the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act (TROA) were soliciting support from their colleagues on a letter to congressional leadership regarding the impact of COVID-19 on those affected by obesity —- specifically asking for Congress to include TROA in the next pandemic relief package.

The letter highlights how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has now stated that older people and younger adults with serious medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, asthma and obesity have a greater risk of becoming severely ill if they become infected with COVID-19. Additionally, the prevalence of pulmonary problems in patients with obesity is also higher than for normal-weight individuals. Conditions like asthma, sleep apnea, restrictive lung disease and gastroesophageal refluxrelated pulmonary issues all compromise the baseline pulmonary function of patients with obesity and will likely put them at some increased risk for serious illness with COVID-19. Finally, the letter discusses how this crisis has magnified the health inequities experienced by racial and ethnic minority communities, which are prone to be more affected by obesity.

To help bolster support for this effort, the Obesity Action Coalition will be directing its members on May 5th “Giving Tuesday” to visit the OAC Action Center and urge their legislator to support inclusion of TROA in the next COVID-19 congressional relief package.

CMS Increases Payments for Audio-Only Office & Outpatient Visits

In response to efforts by organized medicine, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced April 30th that they will be increasing payments for audio-only telephone visits between Medicare beneficiaries and their physicians to match payments for similar office and outpatient visits. CMS is also broadening that list of services to include many behavioral health and patient education services. This would increase payments for these services from a range of about $14-41 to about $46-110, and the payments are retroactive to March 1, 2020.

OCC member groups (American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery and Obesity Medicine Association) joined more than 130 professional organizations and state medical societies on an April 15, 2020 AMA-coordinated letter to congressional leadership, which raised this issue and other critical areas of Medicare and Medicaid policy.

OCC Outreach to Governors & Insurance Commissioners

During May, the Obesity Care Continuum (OCC) will be reaching out to every State Governor and Insurance Commissioner to highlight a number of areas of obesity care and health plan coverage practices that OCC believes should be reevaluated during the COVID-19 public health crisis. Click here to view the “Statement of the Obesity Care Continuum: Patient Access to Care Issues Surrounding Obesity and COVID-19.”

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