Obesity - How Medicare Can Help

Obesity - How Medicare Can Help

With obesity a growing epidemic in the United States, it is not surprising that members of all age groups are struggling with it. Busy lives, lack of exercise and activity, poor nutrition choices, and genetics have all contributed to a rise in the number of Americans battling obesity every day. The senior population is no exception, but there are specific risks for individuals over the age of 65 who are living with obesity.

For adults, overweight and obesity ranges are determined by using weight and height to calculate a number called the "body mass index" (BMI). BMI is used because, for most people, it correlates with their amount of body fat. An adult who has a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese. An adult who has a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight.1 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are serious health consequences associated with obesity.

Research has shown that obesity can increase the risk for a variety of diseases, including “coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon), hypertension (high blood pressure), dyslipidemia (for example, high total cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides), stroke, liver and gallbladder disease, sleep apnea and respiratory problems, and osteoarthritis (a degeneration of cartilage and its underlying bone within a joint).”2

Medicare’s preventive services have gotten even more comprehensive, and include obesity screenings and counseling. If you have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more, Medicare covers intensive counseling to help you lose weight. This counseling may be covered if you get it in a primary care setting (like a doctor’s office), where it can be coordinated with your personalized prevention plan. Talk to your primary care doctor or primary care practitioner to find out more detailed information. You pay nothing for this service if your primary care doctor or other qualified primary care practitioner accepts assignment. If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you will have at least the same coverage as Original Medicare, but many offer additional benefits, including fitness club membership which may be a great addition to new healthy lifestyle choices. Call your plan for more information.

If you are in the midst of making a coverage decisio, you can compare the options available in your area, including MA plans that may offer additional assistance with obesity-related services. Finding the insurance plan that fits your personal needs is a great step toward making healthy choices that may improve your well-being.

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Overweight and Obesity; http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/adult/causes/index.html

2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Overweight and Obesity; http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/adult/causes/index.html