Nov. 14, 2013… The medical profession (The Obesity Society, American heart Assn., American College of Cardiology) has issued new guidelines for fighting the national obesity epidemic, urging doctors to get more aggressive with their patients. In 2014, most insurance companies are expected to cover counseling and other obesity treatments.
These new guidelines advise doctors to:
* Once yearly, calculate their patients’ BMI.
* Develop a weight loss plan that includes exercise and moderate calorie
* Consider recommending weight loss surgery for those with a BMI of 40, or for those with a BMI of 35 with other risk factors for heart disease.
* Discuss with those who are overweight or obese enrollment in at least 14 in-person counseling sessions over 6 months, with a registered dietitian, psychologist, or other “professional” with training in weight management.
The key opportunity here is the last point – counseling. We’ll need some more clarification of what they mean by “professional” in weight management. Does that include weight loss coaches without an RD, nutritionist, health educator or other formal certification (i.e. a person who went through the Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers program, lost weight, and had company training)? In any case, COUNSELING sessions will be reimbursed by insurance.
This presents two positive opportunities for weight loss firms:
1) Insurance coverage means that this will reduce the out-of-pocket cost of the program for customers. 3 months of $40 monthly passes for Weight Watchers meetings would be fully paid for. In Jenny Craig’s case, they could put a value on counseling and break out of that cost from their food cost, and the customer can get reimbursed for that amount–lowering the total program cost.
2) Opportunity for extra income for those diet companies that are now just operating online or by phone, which may be able to charge for counseling (at no cost to the customer). At a typical session of $30 for 30 minutes x 14 sessions, that’s $420 of revenue. This would also apply to sessions at a drugstore chain healthcare mini-clinic, usually run by a nurse practitioner, who would no doubt be qualified. (That’s why the big diet companies need to partner with these clinics or miss out big time.)
This could stimulate a whole new cottage industry of weight loss counselors, people who don’t sell any diet foods or supplements, but just give advice on nutrition, exercise and psych issues.