Insurance coverage questions arise after obesity classification - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Insurance coverage questions arise after obesity classification

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT)- The American Medical Association will now recognize obesity as a disease. The organization made the decision Tuesday at the group's annual meeting. 

Experts say recognizing obesity as a disease is a way to get more medical attention and insurance coverage for procedures. About a third of adults in the U.S. are obese, which is about 35 pounds over a healthy weight.

This decision could spur positive changes when it comes to paying for procedures. 

"There are many patients that are unable to get their surgery to help their obesity just because of funds," said Kristen Brewer, bariatric coordinator at NEA Baptist.  Bariatric deals with the causes, prevention and treatment of obesity.  

"If they are an 100 pounds overweight you are looking at something more serious and more chronic," Brewer said. "If their body mass index is 40 then they are 100 pounds or more overweight."

Prior to the announcement, the AMA referred to obesity as a major public health problem. Brewer says some patients go into debt just trying to pay for the weight loss procedures.

"I've had patients in the past that told me they've had to sell three cars just to have the surgery," she said. "Many people get a big loan from the bank that they really don't have the funds to do but they need the surgery so badly."

Brewer says they are a lot of factors to consider when diagnosing obesity.

"What is their weight, what is their height, do they actually classify as morbid obesity, are they really overweight and what are the causes of this," Brewer said.

With this recent change, Brewer says she hopes insurance companies will help make a positive impact on patients.

"If they can see the costs savings for their insurance company with just this one thing of weight loss it's going to have a positive impact," she said.

"Now that it's being classified as a disease hopefully it will be talked about more."

Medicare pays for obesity screenings of patients with a body mass index of 30 or more.

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