Tampa, FL, May 28, 2024 – This week, the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC), along with 57 other organizations, delivered a letter to the Biden Administration to call on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to provide access to comprehensive obesity care. The letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure calls on the administration to add obesity into the category of complex, chronic disease states under the National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health guidelines, provide Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage of obesity medications, and expand the type of qualified healthcare and community providers and evidence-based community programs that can deliver intensive behavioral therapy (IBT) under Medicare Part B.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) currently prohibits Medicare Part D coverage of obesity medications, citing an outdated federal statute that excludes “agents when used for anorexia, weight loss, or weight gain” from Part D coverage. In addition, the National Coverage Determination (NCD) for IBT for obesity is overly restrictive to the types of providers and settings of care. These outdated CMS positions stand in contrast to the significant scientific developments that have been made to treat and manage obesity. In fact, many federal agencies and states have already recognized obesity as a complex disease and provide coverage for comprehensive obesity care and treatment.

“To align with the science, prevailing federal and state policies, and broader public health priorities, we request the Biden Administration add obesity as a complex, chronic disease state under the National Strategy for Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, provide Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage of obesity medications, and update the Medicare Part B NCD on IBT for obesity,” wrote over 50 groups in the letter to HHS and CMS. “By extending these coverage updates, CMS will not only be acting in accordance with the latest scientific research and federal health initiatives but also will ensure more appropriate, comprehensive, and patient-centered treatment of obesity and related comorbidities for Americans suffering from this disease.”

By 2030, it is projected that half of the American population will live with obesity, which disproportionately impacts vulnerable groups, including seniors and minority communities. The consequences of inadequate obesity treatment are profound. Diseases linked to obesity, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers, lead as primary causes of preventable deaths in the U.S. Addressing obesity comprehensively and proactively can significantly reduce other healthcare costs, as demonstrated by a Veterans Health Administration (VA) study showing substantial medical care cost reductions from the use of obesity medications combined with lifestyle modification programs.

The Biden Administration has demonstrated a commitment to combat obesity and diabetes before, expanding Medicare beneficiaries’ access to nutrition and obesity counseling in the National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, capping the cost of insulin at $35 for those on Medicare, and calling for that cap to extend to Americans on commercial insurance. OAC and signing groups are urging the Administration to build on these actions and align Medicare policies with our understanding of how to effectively treat obesity.

  • Click here to view the full list of groups urging the Biden Administration to provide access to comprehensive obesity care.
  • Click here to learn more about the imperative for CMS to provide Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage of obesity medications. 

About the Obesity Action Coalition:

The Obesity Action Coalition (OAC), a more than 80,000-member-strong National nonprofit organization, is dedicated to improving the lives of individuals affected by the disease of obesity through education, advocacy and support.