Wenstrup, Cassidy offer bipartisan, bicameral Treat and Reduce Obesity Act

To address the nation’s obesity epidemic, U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) and U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) on July 20 offered a bipartisan, bicameral bill that would expand Medicare coverage of obesity treatment options. 

“As a physician, the prevalence of obesity in our country deeply concerns me. I believe it is important that we work to keep Americans healthier for longer, and when patients go without obesity treatment, which is multifaceted, it is more difficult to treat later down the line,” Rep. Wenstrup said. “By tackling obesity head on, we can better prevent numerous additional diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, helping lengthen Americans’ health spans while also saving taxpayer and Medicare dollars over the long run.”

Rep. Wenstrup sponsored the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act (TROA), H.R. 4818, with lead original cosponsor U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA), while Sen. Cassidy signed on as the lead original cosponsor of the same-named S. 2407, which is sponsored by U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) and 11 other original cosponsors, including U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and Roger Wicker (R-MS).

“There is a clear need to address obesity,” said Sen. Cassidy. “Expanding Medicare coverage to the treatments patients need enables them to improve their health and benefits us all.”

If enacted, the measure would expand which healthcare providers could bill Medicare for intensive behavioral therapy related to obesity to include clinical psychologists, registered dietitians, or nutrition professionals if the patient is referred to these new healthcare providers by a physician, according to a bill summary provided by the lawmakers.

The legislation also would permit medications that are FDA-approved to treat obesity to be covered under Medicare Part D, the summary says.

“Obesity is a complex chronic disease and a public health epidemic that costs our nation billions of dollars. As an emergency physician, I cared for many patients with complications from diabetes and cardiovascular diseases that stemmed from their obesity,” said Rep. Ruiz. “The bipartisan Treat and Reduce Obesity Act, would help seniors who suffer from obesity gain Medicare coverage and access to vital medications and behavioral therapies that would help them live a healthier and longer life.”

“With obesity rates on the rise in our country, we must do more to combat this epidemic head on,” added Sen. Carper. “Too many of those in need are being denied care because of the high cost of medications or inaccessible treatment options.”

The TROA has garnered support from numerous organizations, including the American Diabetes Association, the American Gastroenterological Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, the Obesity Action Coalition, and WeightWatchers, among many others.