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Posted 11/3/2020

Prepared by Christopher Gallagher, OCC Washington Representative

Pandemic Relief and TROA Kicked to Lame Duck Session

In late October, Members of Congress left town to campaign for the election — leaving passage of both another round of pandemic relief and the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act (TROA) to a lame duck session in November. As stated in last month’s advocacy update, Obesity Care Advocacy Network (OCAN) leaders will continue to advocate for inclusion of TROA in any must-pass piece of legislation before Congress adjourns sine die in December.

OMA Resolution calling on the AMA to increase its Advocacy Efforts in support of TROA

During October, Dr. Ethan Lazarus submitted a resolution to the American Medical Association’s (AMA) House of Delegates on behalf of the OMA entitled: “Resolution 214: Increase Advocacy Efforts in Support of the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act.” The resolution, which has been accepted to the delegate handbook and assigned to Reference Committee B, highlights the long history of strong bipartisan support for TROA and urges “our AMA increase advocacy efforts toward the passage of the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act.”

At the time of this report, OMA was coordinating with other member groups of the AMA Obesity Caucus to have resolution 214 brought up for urgent consideration given that Medicare beneficiaries living with obesity are not receiving proper evidence-based care, and as a result, are at risk of severe health consequences from COVID-19, not only because of their age but also because of their BMI. OMA also points out that since the AMA’s 2020 HOD Annual Meeting, there has been mounting evidence that obesity is a large contributing factor to the increased mortality and morbidity associated with COVID-19 and there is an urgent need to address this factor in COVID-19 intervention.

The AMA is only considering a small handful of resolutions that were deemed urgent enough due to the complexities of deliberating on a virtual platform at this meeting. At this time, resolution 214 has not been recommended for urgent consideration. However, if there is support from enough delegates, this resolution could be included as a business item for this meeting.

For more information about how you can encourage your AMA delegates within your state medical society or specialty society to support urgent consideration of Resolution 214, please contact Dr. Ethan Lazarus, OMA’s delegate to the AMA HOD and Chair of the Obesity Caucus at ethanlazarus@gmail.com.

OCAN Supports Additional Flexibilities for Medicare DPP

On October 5th, OCAN commented on an aspect of the 2021 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule proposed rule regarding the Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program (MDPP). OCAN called on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to allow for additional flexibilities for patients with obesity under the MDPP.

Programs like the MDPP demonstrate success in reducing obesity and the risk of obesity-related diseases in individuals with pre-diabetes. However, MDPP is only part of the solution because it is only available to those patients who have pre-diabetes. Leading clinical guidelines recommend that patients with obesity have access to the full spectrum of treatment options, including intensive behavioral therapy, bariatric surgery, and pharmacotherapy.

Thus, OCAN urged CMS to expand access to MDPP to patients with obesity through an 1135 waiver or an CMMI pilot. These policy changes would put CMS in alignment with the overall Health and Human Services national objectives to address the nation’s most critical public health issues including overweight and obesity. It also provides beneficiaries access to critical treatments to both mitigate the risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and reduce the risk of developing obesity-related comorbidities.

Please click here for access to OCAN’s full comment letter on the proposed fee schedule.

PA STARS Continue Push for Medicaid Coverage of Obesity Drugs

OCC State Advocacy Representatives (STARs) for Pennsylvania continue their advocacy efforts surrounding passage of HB 410. At the time of this report, the Pennsylvania Senate had left town but will reconvene in mid-November. PA STARs will continue to work with both Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chair Brooks and HB 410 House sponsor Representative Oberlander to secure final passage of this legislation prior to the legislature adjourning in December.

OCC Leader Participates in Special Briefing for Texas Legislature to Better Address Chronic Disease

On Tuesday, November 10, the Partnership for a Healthy Texas will host a virtual briefing for lawmakers and their staff in the Texas Legislature and other external stakeholders to present PHT’s agenda for the 87th Legislative Session. PHT member and TOS leader Dr. Leah Whigham will join four other panelists in discussing PHT’s legislative agenda during the briefing.

COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of an appropriately resourced public health infectious disease infrastructure. The briefing will highlight the need for how that same emphasis should be placed on chronic diseases, including obesity, that receive less attention than global pandemics but have a lasting impact on the health and wellbeing of Texans.

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