Meadville Tribune

Our Health

July 10, 2012

Panel urges insurers to cover weight-loss plans

— Eat less, exercise more. Simple? Yes. Easy? No. If weight loss were easy, obesity rates among adults in the United States probably wouldn't have reached the current 36 percent.

 Recently revised guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force acknowledge that fact. They recommend that clinicians screen patients for obesity, which is defined as having a body mass index of 30 or higher. Further, they say patients who meet or exceed that level should be offered or referred to "intensive, multicomponent behavioral interventions" to help them lose weight.

 The revised guidelines strengthen the previous recommendations, says David Grossman, a senior investigator at Group Health Research Institute in Seattle and a member of the task force.

  For the millions of people who struggle to lose weight, the new guidelines offer much-needed support. It's unclear whether employers and insurers will welcome the change, though.

 Under the 2010 health-care law, new health plans and those whose benefits change enough to lose their grandfathered status must provide services recommended by the Preventive Services Task Force at no cost to members. For the 70 percent of employers that already offer weight management programs, that may mean just supplementing what they already offer, says Russell Robbins, a senior clinical consultant at Mercer, a human resources consulting firm.

 But some employers are concerned they may be on the hook for ongoing treatment as employees make repeated attempts to lose weight.

  "From a financial standpoint, the guidelines are pretty broad and pretty extensive," says Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health, which represents the interests of large firms. "Does this mean that employers and the government will be paying for up to 26 intense visits every year for every obese person for the rest of their lives?"

 A Health and Human Services HHS official said the department is evaluating whether to issue additional guidance on the new rules.

 Insurers will be working to determine how best to satisfy the recommendations, says Susan Pisano, a spokeswoman for America's Health Insurance Plans, an industry group.

 "I think the real question is making sure there are programs that fulfill these requirements," she says.

   According to the task force, effective weight-loss programs involve 12 to 26 group or individual sessions over the course of a year that cover multiple behavioral management techniques. These may include setting weight-loss goals and strategizing about how to maintain lifestyle changes, incorporating exercise and eating a more healthful diet, and learning to address the psychological and other barriers that create roadblocks to weight loss. The task force found that people in these programs generally lost nine to 15 pounds in the first year.

 The task force said there wasn't enough evidence to determine whether such interventions worked for people who were overweight but not obese.

   A number of existing programs provide the kind of care that the guidelines recommend, say experts.

  Weight Watchers, for example, runs 20,000 meetings a week around the country where people discuss their weight-loss challenges and successes and get pointers on losing weight and keeping it off.

 At $42.95 a month for access to group meetings and online food tracking and other tools, however, it's not an option for many people with limited incomes, who make up a disproportionate share of the obese. Some employers subsidize their employees' membership in the program. Under the new guidelines, insurers and employers could be responsible for paying 100 percent of the cost.

  Other programs have also been successful. Two years ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in partnership with UnitedHealth Group and the YMCA, launched the National Diabetes Prevention Program for people at high risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.

   The program is based on a study in which participants who learned to eat more healthfully and exercised at least 150 minutes a week lost 5 to 7 percent of their weight and reduced their risk of developing diabetes by 58 percent.

  The program is offered by many YMCAs and other groups. It offers each participant 16 weekly group weight-loss sessions followed by six monthly sessions. It's a covered benefit for people with UnitedHealthcare or Medica insurance; others pay based on a sliding scale, says Ann Albright, director of CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation. CDC is working with Medicaid and Medicare to try to get it covered by those programs, says Albright.

  John Joseph IV tipped the scales at 203 and had a BMI of 28.3 when he paid $150 to join the program at the YMCA near his Birmingham, Ala., home. In the four months since then, the 34-year-old, who runs a job-coaching business for college grads, has dropped 17 pounds.

  At the weekly group meetings, he learned to count the fat grams in food and to make smarter food choices. Now he eats fewer cookies and more flounder. He started an exercise program and runs or lifts weights for 30 minutes three times a week.

  "I thought, if I can do this, it will give me the infrastructure and habits so I can get to the mid-170s, which is where I want to be," he says.

Losing weight is hard, but keeping it off may be harder.

 In 2009, Gayenell Magwood lost 100 pounds with the help of the weight management center at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

But after health problems curtailed her exercise routine for a few months, her weight crept up to 170, a gain of nearly 20 pounds. Magwood, 49, who lives in North Charleston and is a researcher in the College of Nursing at MUSC, went through the 15-week program all over again, at a cost of about $600. She lost the weight she had regained.

 Before enrolling in the MUSC program, "I'd never once been successful with significant weight loss," she says.

               

This column is produced through a collaboration between The Post and Kaiser Health News. KHN, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health-care-policy organization that is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

bc-health-weight

    

WASHINGTON POST-BLOOMBERG--07-09-12 1434EDT



 

1
Text Only
Our Health
  • Don't let a desk job negatively impact your health

    If you’re female, you might want to consider a more physically active career to avoid a variety of cancers.

    July 21, 2014

  • Study focuses on cancer in those who apply pesticides

    This year marks the end of the Agricultural Health Study, a 20-year study of the effects of pesticides on farm workers and their families. Although the study focused on Iowa and North Carolina, there are still some elements that are important for Pennsylvania farmers as well as anyone who handles chemical compounds.

    June 30, 2014

  • Learn to swim and keep drowning at bay

    When you and your family hit the pool or the beach this summer, you need to be aware of a phenomenon known as secondary drowning, or dry drowning.

    June 16, 2014

  • ‘Planting’ the seeds of a better diet this summer

    Summertime is a great time to make improvements to your diet and lifestyle. Despite the conflicting “advice” you may get about diet when reading the popular press (not to mention all of the “food rules”), adding more plants to your diet is always a good idea.

    June 9, 2014

  • Is the idea of drinkable sunscreen worth swallowing?

    Tired of greasy, sticky hands after applying sunscreen? Even the spray-on sunscreens leave you inhaling fumes that you shouldn’t breathe. Well, enter a new era of skincare products: drinkable sunscreen.

    June 3, 2014

  • Survivor stories: Beating cancer with faith and family love

    I recently talked with Rebecca Arbuckle of Meadville to discuss her journey with breast cancer and how she was able to beat it with faith, strength and the love of her family. Although our conversation was upbeat and filled with confidence, there were times that emotion broke through, as it should, for having faced such a battle and won. I am in awe of the people I have had the chance to interview and am honored to share their stories.

    May 27, 2014

  • Uncovering the simple fix to the 'super bug'

    The World Health Organization has identified a serious threat to human health around the globe. Known as a “superbug,” this antimicrobial resistant bacterial infection has been coined “AMR” (Antimicrobial Resistance).

    May 19, 2014

  • Get educated about high blood pressure and eating better

    May is High Blood Pressure Education Month, and one in three Americans have it. High blood pressure (hypertension) is a leading risk factor for stroke. Hypertension is often referred to as the “silent killer” since you may feel no apparent symptoms. Yet, high blood pressure will cause damage to the blood vessels, brain and heart over time.

    May 13, 2014

  • Researchers: colon cleansing health benefits a myth

    Researchers have found that while colon cleansing has been around since ancient times, the health benefits are basically a myth.

    May 5, 2014

  • Prescription for Medical Nutrition Therapy

    Nutrition is a vital part of being well, and an even more important part to getting well (or healing). It’s a critical part of prevention, yet if I surveyed physicians or lay people, and asked them “Does diet therapy work?” chances are at least 70 percent of them would say “No.”

    April 21, 2014

Business Marquee
AP Video
The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Stocks