BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – The American Medical Association now classifies obesity as a disease.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the group voted to approve that decision on Tuesday.
The declaration recognizes obesity as a medical condition that required treatment and prevention.
The Los Angeles Times quotes an AMA member as saying it will “help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue.”
Obesity affects bouts one in three adults and 17 percent of children in the United States.
It can lead to health problems like high blood pressure, diabetes, and joint damage to name a few. Now that the AMA says obesity itself is a disease, family nurse practitioner Bryan Combs hopes people will take their doctors’ advice more seriously. He thinks it could also mean insurance companies will pay for weight loss options that are sometimes considered elective procedures.
“The bariatric surgery which is the very common one you see a lot is an excellent choice for people who can fit that criteria. More importantly with insurance is they make it, depending on the policies, people have to follow a strict guideline to have that procedure done. So some people it’s just hard to even be able to complete that guideline to be able to be approved to have that procedure. Hopefully these changes may make it somewhat more accessible to them if it’s deemed a, or classified as a disease,” said Combs.
Dana Neeman has reportedly lost 100 lbs since having weight loss surgery. She hopes to lose more.
“I’ve been overweight my entire life. I’ve always joked I was born overweight. I was born 10 lbs 4 oz,” said Neeman.
On the flip side of the discussion, Bryan Combs says more options could mean higher costs.
“There’s probably definitely going to be changes on premiums. If they’re offering more surgeries then premiums may go up,” said Nelson.
Professor and health care expert Jack Nelson at Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law says the jury is still out on how insurance companies will respond.
“You could look at dietician services and things like that as possibly preventive care and then the question is, is this really cost effective and there’s not a lot of really good empirical data on cost-effectiveness of a lot of these programs. So I think that’s still an open question as to how cost effective they are. I think certainly the focus going forward will be on comparative effectiveness. They’ll look at treatments and try to get some idea of the relative effectiveness of certain treatments- surgical as compared to you know other sorts of regimens, maybe you know dieticians services things like that exercise programs. I think more and more focus is going to be on providing incentives for people to reduce their weight,” said Nelson.
We contacted Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Alabama to ask what impact the AMA classification may have on plans and premiums. A company spokesperson responded with the following statement:
“We recognize obesity is a contributor to healthcare issues and increases cost, but it’s hard to determine if a specific recommendation as a disease will increase cost. Our company continues to be invested in the fight against obesity at various levels. We are leveraging new and innovative technologies to address our members’ health needs including chronic conditions associated with obesity. We also play a strong role on the State Obesity Task Force and partner with the State Department of Public Health to promote Scale Back Alabama. These initiatives promote healthy lifestyle choices which can also mean lower healthcare costs for Alabamians,” Source: Sophie Martin, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Alabama.
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