Posted 9/19/2014

Prepared by Christopher Gallagher, ASMBS Washington Representative

Congress Recesses Until After Elections

During mid-September, both the House and Senate went into recess so that legislators could return home to campaign for November elections. As such, there will be little formal legislative activity until late November when a likely lame-duck session will convene.

Johnson/Blumenauer Urge HHS to Follow OPM’s Lead on Obesity

Earlier in the year, the federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued specific guidance to both Multi-State Health Plans and Federal Employee Health Benefit Program carriers regarding obesity treatment services – stating that the agency will no longer tolerate plans excluding obesity treatment coverage on the basis that obesity is a “lifestyle” condition or that treatment is “cosmetic.”

In sharing this news on Capitol Hill, Obesity Care Continuum (OCC) groups found that many offices were both appreciative of OPM’s leadership on this issue and also a little concerned about the public perception of federal employees receiving access to obesity treatment coverage protections not afforded to the millions of Americans in state health exchange plans.

These feelings led both Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (DTX) and Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) to initiate a congressional sign-on letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell – urging the Department to follow OPM’s lead and issue similar guidance on obesity treatment coverage to state health exchanges.

Representatives Johnson and Blumenauer and 47 other House Members signed on the final letter.

TROA Sponsors Ask HHS to Address Medicare Part D Drug Coverage of Obesity Drugs

On October 2, over 110 members of the House and Senate joined with Treat and Reduce Obesity Act sponsors Senators Carper and Murkowski and Representatives Cassidy and Kind in signing a letter to HHS — urging the Department to utilize its administrative authority to include coverage of FDA-approved obesity drugs under Medicare Part D.