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Posted 11/2/2021

Prepared by Christopher Gallagher, OCC Washington Representative

Congressional TROA Supporters Surpass 115!

In late October, congressional support for S. 596/HR 1577, the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act (TROA) grew to 116 supporters when Representatives Cleaver (D-MO), Norton (D-DC), Carter (D-LA), Royball-Allard (D-CA), Murphy (D-NJ), Pascrell (D-NJ), Swalwell (D-CA), Hollingsworth (R-IN), Beyer (D-VA), Ross (D-NC) and Mullin (R-OK) cosponsored the legislation. Currently, 17 Senators and 99 House members are on record supporting TROA!

Advocates from OCC member groups continue to participate in forums that are highlighting the need for obesity care coverage and passage of TROA. For example, on October 20th, Joe Nadglowski and Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford joined with TROA champions Drs. Ruiz (D-CA) and Wenstrup (R-OH) and Dr. Kavita Patel for a one-hour webinar on “Improving Obesity Care,” which was hosted by The Hill newspaper – one of the major publications that tracks Capitol Hill. The webinar focused on: how can we modernize health policy and practice to improve care for persons with obesity; what can be done to address weight bias and stigma; what type of gold standard treatment guidelines need to be implemented; and what can be done to invest in prevention of the disease.

Obesity Care Now Campaign Endorsed by NAACP and NAN

During October, OCAN’s Obesity Care Now campaign was endorsed by both the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the National Action Network (NAN). In throwing its support behind the campaign, NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson stated that “Congress must take action to address systemic health barriers and reverse discriminatory Medicare policies that disenfranchise millions of Americans and block access to obesity care that can be lifesaving.”

Pennsylvania Obesity Advocates Meet with Appropriators in State Legislature

During October, Pennsylvania obesity advocates Ted Kyle and Drs. Vicki March, Verlyn Warrington and Sunil Daniel met with key staff on both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to discuss issues surrounding cost and utilization of obesity drugs specific to Senate Bill 782 and House Bill 293. During September, the Pennsylvania Senate Health and Human Services Committee unanimously approved SB 782, which is being championed by Senator Joe Pittman. SB 782 is companion legislation to Pennsylvania State Representative Donna Oberlander’s HB 293, which would allow FDA-approved medications that treat obesity to be covered under the state’s Medicaid program.

Wisconsin Obesity Advocates Meet with State Employee Health Plan

On October 1st, obesity advocates met with key staff with the Wisconsin Employee Trust Funds (ETF), who provide guidance to the state’s Group Insurance Board (GIB), which is responsible for determining the scope of state employee health plan coverage. The meeting offered an opportunity to continue the dialogue in support of state employee coverage for obesity drugs and robust intensive behavioral therapy (IBT) services for health benefit plan year 2023.

The meeting began with advocates expressing appreciation to ETF staff and the GIB for approving bariatric surgery coverage for state employees in 2019 and how that new benefit is helping so many people. We then moved on to discuss the current coverage landscape in Wisconsin and surrounding states — applauding Wisconsin for strong drug coverage in its Medicaid program. Advocates also shared how both Michigan and Minnesota provide state employee coverage for obesity drugs as well as the growing momentum in Iowa to secure drug coverage in that state employee plan. Finally, advocates discussed the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on those affected by obesity — particularly in communities of color.

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