Making Prevention a Priority

December 6, 2011
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Last week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that coverage will be added for preventive services to reduce obesity.

Last week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that coverage will be added for preventive services to reduce obesity. The Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD) applauds CMS’s announcement which is a big step in the right direction towards emphasizing prevention and curbing the obesity epidemic.  People entering Medicare obese incur 20 to 40 percent more lifetime costs than their normal weight peers, and suffer higher levels of disability.  Lowering the obesity rate within Medicare is critical to reducing costs and improving the quality of life for those in the program. CMS also noted in their announcement that through the end of October, 22.6 million people with Medicare have taken advantage of one or more of the free covered preventive services this year – an important sign that prevention services are a worthwhile investment.

Obesity is one of the major causes, and an aggressive cost driver, for chronic diseases which burden one in two Americans and account for 70 cents of every U.S. health care dollar. One in three Americans is obese, and according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) more than 16 percent of children are obese. The national costs associated with childhood obesity alone are estimated at approximately $14 billion.

Preventing and reducing obesity must be a top public health priority. Its prevalence clearly places obesity reduction atop the measures aimed at cutting overall health care costs. PFCD strongly supports the steps CMS is taking to address this challenge and encourages further valuable steps like these that can make big differences on the bottom line when it comes to health care costs and the overall fiscal distress with which our country is grappling.

CMS’s announcement was met with a great deal of praise in the news and more details about the services being offered and perspectives on these measures are highlighted by Kaiser Health News and USA Today