Carper, Murkowski, Heinrich, Cassidy, Coons, and Grassley Introduce Bill to Help Reduce Obesity

Bipartisan, bicameral bill aimed at lowering health costs, preventing chronic diseases and increasing Medicare coverage of obesity treatments

WASHINGTON – Today, Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M), Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.), Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced legislation to help lower health care costs and prevent chronic diseases by addressing America’s growing obesity crisis. The Treat and Reduce Obesity Act gives Medicare beneficiaries and their health care providers additional tools to reduce obesity by improving access to weight-loss counseling and new prescription drugs for chronic weight management, among other provisions. An identical bill (H.R. 2404) was introduced in the House last month by Reps. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) and Ron Kind (D-Wis.).

Health care costs related to obesity total nearly $200 billion each year. Furthermore, nearly 70 percent of Americans are overweight or obese, and 42 percent of Americans are projected to become obese by 2030. Obesity increases the risk for chronic diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

“Seven in 10 adults struggle with obesity and being overweight, and more than a third of children are overweight or obese. These facts demand that we do more to combat the obesity epidemic,” Sen. Carper said. “If we continue to stand idly by while more and more people become overweight and obese, for the first time in our country’s history our children will live shorter lives than their parents. The federal government must have a robust strategy for reining in obesity and ensuring that our vital health care programs, like Medicare and Tricare, provide Americans with every available treatment and tool for reducing obesity’s physical, social and financial costs.”

“As the statistics of obesity continue to grow in our country, and even more so in Alaska, we must improve how we treat and inform Americans to raise their quality of life and help prevent severe long-term conditions down the road,” Sen. Murkowski said.  “America’s obesity problem has morphed from a national nutritional and fitness concern to an economic crisis, becoming a growing financial drain as more and more medical attention is required. By providing children with healthier options now, we can improve their quality of life as adults and avoid these preventable expenses in the future.”

“Obesity is a complex chronic disease that affects the health and wellbeing of millions of Americans,” Sen. Heinrich said. “This legislation would give patients access to a full range of safe and effective tools that would empower them to improve their physical and mental health.”

“As a doctor, I’ve seen how obesity can affect a person’s physical health and mental wellness,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy M.D. “There are treatments and services available to treat obesity, but we must work together to make the effective treatment of obesity a priority. This legislation will lower health costs and most importantly give patients access to the proper tools for better health.”

“As a nation, we have too often overlooked the growing crisis of obesity among Americans, leading to severe consequences for the health of our children, families, and our economy,” Sen. Coons said. “This bipartisan legislation will ensure patients have access to the right information, counseling, and resources they need to improve their health and wellbeing.  By improving access to critical resources that address this epidemic now, we can help reduce the prevalence of obesity and cut our nation’s health care costs in the future.”

“Medicare should reflect the modern practice of medicine,” Sen. Grassley said.  “Supports, treatments and prescription drugs that are helpful to both beneficiaries and taxpayers should be available.”

The Treat and Reduce Obesity Act would, among other provisions:

  • Allow Medicare to cover additional obesity treatments such as new, FDA-approved prescription drugs for chronic weight management, already covered by the Veterans Health Administration, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and the Indian Health Service.
  • Give CMS authority to improve Medicare beneficiary access to benefits for intensive behavioral counseling by allowing additional types of providers to offer this service.  Fewer than 100,000 Medicare beneficiaries have taken advantage of this benefit, even though 13 million seniors are obese.