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AMA supports evidence-based obesity treatment services

AMA House of Delegates adopts policy on patient access to evidence-based obesity treatment services

The House of Delegates of the American Medical Association has adopted a policy advocating the need for patient access to a continuum of medically proven treatment options for obesity. The AMA’s passage of the "Patient Access to Evidence-Based Obesity Services" resolution gives the AMA decisive direction to support advocacy efforts to improve patient access to all evidence-based obesity treatments.

"We are thrilled that through this and last year's decisions, AMA has affirmed its commitment to working with us and fellow medical specialty societies focused on solving our global obesity crisis," said ASBP President Dr. Eric C. Westman, who also served as the ASBP 2014 delegate to AMA.

These include behavioural, pharmaceutical, psychosocial, nutritional and surgical interventions as being possible obesity treatment options, each of which are effective according to evidence-based medical research and practice.

The decision comes one year after AMA's decision recognising obesity as a "disease requiring a range of medical interventions to advance obesity treatment and prevention."

Although AMA decisions do not have recognised legal implications, these policy decisions are often referenced by federal and state legislators and other decision makers when setting medical policy and health regulations.

With this and last year's AMA policy adoptions on obesity, the implications for patients and the health care community may be far reaching, including:

  • improved training in obesity at medical schools and residency programmes,
  • reduced stigma of obesity by the public and physicians,
  • improved insurance benefits for obesity-specific treatment, and
  • increased research funding for both prevention and treatment strategies.

While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires insurance coverage for individuals affected by obesity and other related conditions like diabetes, insurers, including those participating in the health insurance exchanges, are not required to cover proven obesity treatment options. Furthermore, coverage for bariatric surgery for severe obesity is sporadic, whilst coverage for obesity drugs and other evidence-based treatment options are excluded.

“Last year, the AMA’s declaration of obesity as a disease greatly elevated the issue of obesity,” said Joe Nadglowski, OAC President and CEO. “With today’s announcement, we’re hopeful that healthcare providers will now utilise evidence-based treatments for obesity, such as behavioural counselling, obesity medications and bariatric surgery, when combating this disease. In addition, we are now confident that our continued advocacy efforts will make an impact in improving access. More than 93 million Americans are impacted by the disease of obesity. The need for coverage of evidence-based treatments is critical in helping those impacted.”

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