December 2021 OCC Advocacy Report

Prepared by Christopher Gallagher, OCC Washington Representative

SAVE THE DATE! OCW February 28th and March 4th Advocacy Days

Obesity Care Week (OCW) 2022 is just a few months away and we wanted to let advocates know that we will be holding virtual advocacy days on Monday, February 28th and Friday, March 4th. The focus of these “Virtual Hill Days” will be urging Congress to pass S. 596/HR 1577, the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act (TROA). Stay tuned for more information in the January OCC Advocacy Report!

Legislative & Regulatory Update on TROA

Support for TROA passed a major milestone in the House with the addition of two more cosponsors — bringing the total number of supporters in the House to 102 and 17 in the Senate! Despite growing support, it is appearing more likely that action on the bill will have to wait until early in 2022. Unfortunately, TROA was not included in the House-passed version of the Build Back Better bill. Therefore, we are now turning our focus to having TROA included in a Medicare reform package that could be considered during the first months of 2022.

On the regulatory front, House and Senate TROA champions sent a November 2nd letter to CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure urging her to use her “regulatory authority to give seniors access to Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved anti-obesity medications (AOMs) and to improve access to Intensive Behavioral Therapy (IBT) for obesity. We are hopeful that CMS will not only recognize the devastating impact that COVID-19 is having on the health outcomes of so many Americans living with obesity, but also the disproportionate toll obesity is having on communities of color. As such, we hope that CMS will use its resources to update Medicare’s coverage policies to provide comprehensive coverage for effective therapies to treat obesity.”

OCC Leaders Submit Testimony Supporting Anti-Weight Discrimination Bill

On November 23rd, OCC leaders submitted testimony before a hearing of the Massachusetts Joint Committee on the Judiciary — urging support for passage of Massachusetts Senate Bill (SB) 1127 and House Bill (HB) 1822, sponsored by Senator Rebecca Rausch and Representative Tram Nguyen, respectively. This legislation would make it unlawful to discriminate based on height and weight in compensation, in terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, housing or public accommodations in the State of Massachusetts.

Those who submitted testimony included OMA President-Elect Dr. Angela Fitch, OAC Board of Directors’ member Melinda Watman, TOS Council member Dr. Fatima Cody-Stanford and ASMBS Past-President Dr. Matthew Hutter. It is important to note that all of these OCC leaders are Massachusetts-based physician or patient advocates for those affected by obesity.

Patient-advocate Melinda Watman highlighted that, “unfortunately, weight stigma continues to play a role in everyday life and it remains a socially acceptable form of prejudice in American society, and is rarely challenged… and that weight bias “can be overt or subtle and occur in any setting, including employment, healthcare, education, mass media and relationships with family and friends. It also takes many forms – verbal, written, media, online and more. Weight bias is dehumanizing and damaging. It can cause adverse physical and psychological health outcomes and promotes a social norm that marginalizes people.”