New Orleans, La. – New research in two separate studies presented at ObesityWeek demonstrates that health plans often stand in the way of obesity care. In one study, researchers from Harvard, ConscienHealth, and the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) found that Americans report they don’t have health insurance that will pay for obesity care recommended in evidence-based guidelines, including dietary counseling, medical obesity treatment and bariatric surgery.

Even for people with employers targeting obesity in their wellness programs, people do not believe that their health insurance will even cover dietary counseling by a registered dietitian. Reported coverage for medical obesity treatment (43%), obesity medicines (37%), and bariatric surgery is even lower. Theodore Kyle, RPh, MBA, Immediate-Past OAC Chairman, presented the results on Thursday.

In research from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins, Ruchi Doshi reports that most health professionals (57%) believe that better insurance coverage for weight management services is important for providing better obesity care in clinical practice. Scott Kahan, MD, MPH, director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness in Washington, DC, and a spokesman for The Obesity Society commented, “While self-management strategies, such as following a commercial diet or increasing exercise, can help in some individuals, most people with obesity, especially those with severe obesity, can benefit from a comprehensive approach including healthcare professional support.”

Harvard Obesity Medicine Physician Fatima Cody Stanford participated in the coverage gap research and commented on its implications, “Without coverage, many people must go without good medical care for obesity. The irony is that untreated obesity leads to a host of chronic diseases – diabetes and heart disease – that wind up costing health plans more. The current situation makes little sense, financially or medically.”

Joe Nadglowski, President and CEO of the OAC added, “Our members report heartbreaking struggles to obtain insurance coverage for services like bariatric surgeries and obesity medicines that are necessary to reduce and prevent obesity from ravaging their health. Sometimes they are outright denied coverage and presented with absurd hurdles that have the same effect.”

The Obesity Action Coalition (OAC), a more than 54,000 member-strong National nonprofit organization, is dedicated to improving the lives of individuals affected by the disease of obesity through education, advocacy and support.