- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The American Medical Associated opened the door for mandatory insurance treatment for tens of millions of overweight Americans with a Tuesday vote to define obesity as a disease.

An estimated 78 million adults and 12 million children in America are considered obese, by AMA standards, the Los Angeles Times reported. That’s a third of the adult population and 17 percent of the youth, L.A. Times reported.

The AMA’s House of Delegates approved the addition of obesity to its list of diseases over the objections of some of their own experts, L.A. Times reported.

While the obese gain — they may be eligible for diet and fat-loss treatments that were previously out of their price range — insurance companies could feel the pinch. The vote will likely ramp up pressure on insurers to pay for treatments, the L.A. Times said.

Doctors will now have a professional responsibility to raise the issue of weight with patients — and insurers will likely have to reimburse physicians for the time they spend cautioning about health risks from obesity, L.A. Times reported.

“Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately 1 in 3 Americans,” said Dr. Patrice Harris, an AMA board member, in the L.A. Times report.

Medicare already pays for “intensive behavioral therapy” and bariatric surgery for 13 million obese who are covered under the government-funded program. But many private insurers haven’t paid for the same services.

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