Medical nutrition therapy services are nothing new. In fact, Medicare Part B covers these services for people with diabetes and those with kidney disease. In Idaho, they are looking at other conditions that can be controlled, treated, or prevented with medical nutrition therapy.
The cost of obesity in the United States
Currently, obesity in the United States costs about $147 billion annually in direct medical costs. According to experts, that's just above 9 percent of all medical spending. Overall, obese people spend around 41 percent more than people of average weight, and researches suggest it will only get worse if nothing changes to curb the obesity trend.
"Looking ahead, researchers have estimated that by 2030, if obesity trends continue unchecked, obesity-related medical costs alone could rise by $48 to $66 billion a year in the U.S" – Harvard School of Public Health
Health conditions related to obesity
A person is considered obese when their weight is 20% or more above normal. Obesity is linked to health conditions including cancer, coronary heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, gallbladder disease, Type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, arthritis, chronic back pain and more. Statistics from the Department of Health and Human Services show that these chronic diseases are responsible for 7 out of 10 deaths among Americans. However, many of them can be prevented, controlled, or treated through nutrition therapy services.
Nutrition therapy's role under the Affordable Care Act
Idaho is looking at the role nutrition therapy can play in the health insurance marketplace under the Affordable Care Act which puts in place new rules related to preventative care. Under the new regulations, private health plans are required to cover evidence-based preventative services.
"Nationally, Americans use preventive services at about half the recommended rate because, for the most part, these services are unaffordable due to cost sharing, high deductibles, or copayments." – IPCA (Idaho Primary Care Association
Medical nutrition therapy focuses on improving nutrition and increasing physical activity. Overall, this preventative approach reduces the need for health services and reduces medical costs for many. While the nutrition based approach is not new, having it covered by insurance is. This change is new enough that many people may not even be aware nutritional therapy services could possibly be covered by their health care plan.