Medicare will pick up the tab for obesity screening and intensive behavioral counseling, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid announced late Tuesday.
CMS, which first floated the obesity coverage plan last September, said it expects more than 30% of the Medicare population to qualify for the new benefit.
Beneficiaries with body mass index values of 30 or more can receive weekly in-person intensive behavioral therapy visits for one month, followed by visits every two weeks for an additional five months, fully paid by Medicare with no co-payment.
Counseling must take place in a primary care setting such as a physician's office. It will not be covered when provided in skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, emergency departments, outpatient surgery centers, or hospices. However, may are already criticizing this restriction, pointing out that many good weight loss programs provided in other settings (hospitals, commercial and medical weight loss centers) would not qualify. Also, if people are obese when they reach old age, they probably have a lifetime of bad habits that will be difficult to break.