In her continued effort to promote health in America through fitness and nutrition, Senator Lisa Murkowski today co-sponsored bipartisan, bicameral legislation to target the growing national obesity epidemic. The Treat and Reduce Obesity Act that Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) introduced with Senator Murkowski -- and in the House of Representative by Representatives Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) and Ron Kind (D-WI) -- would work to lower short- and long-term health care costs linked to obesity by giving Medicare beneficiaries and their health care providers access to tools to reduce obesity by improving access to weight-loss counseling and new prescription drugs for chronic weight management.
"Obesity is a serious health concern today that leads to severe long-term conditions down the road, and this legislation is a way to begin to stem that tide through better information and treatment to vulnerable groups," said Senator Murkowski. "As the statistics of obesity continue to grow in our country, and even more so in Alaska, we must improve how we treat and inform Americans to raise their quality of life and cut potential health care expenses in the future."
In Alaska, obesity continues to be a serious health concern with statistics that far exceed the national average. According to the CDC data, Alaska ranks 28th highest in obesity and is expected to nearly double to 45 percent from 27.4 percent by 2030. In 2009, 65 percent of adults were overweight or obese in Alaska.
Alaska: Obesity Statistics
Percent of Adults Who are Overweight or Obese, 2011View 50-State Comparison
Overweight and Obesity Rates for Adults by Gender, 2011View 50-State Comparison
The Treat and Reduce Obesity Act would, among other provisions:
Allow Medicare to cover additional obesity treatments such as prescription drugs for chronic weight management, which Medicaid already covers in over 20 states.
Require the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to highlight Medicare coverage of intensive behavioral counseling for obesity for seniors and their doctors.
Give CMS authority to enhance Medicare beneficiary access to benefits for intensive behavioral counseling by allowing additional types of providers to offer this service.
Expand which health care providers are qualified to furnish intensive behavioral therapy, including non-primary physicians, physicians assistants, nurse practitioners, clinical psychologists and registered dietitians or nutrition professionals.
In addition to the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act, Senator Murkowski was recently honored by the Campaign to End Obesity's "Breakfast of Champions" for her fight to increase nutrition standards in Alaskans schools and to improve overall health on and around our military bases.
Murkowski's leadership and guidance in the U.S. Senate has led to updated nutritional standards for food and beverages sold in schools through a bill she co-sponsored, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act -- which became law last year; and the recent introduction of the Fit to Serve Act which would boost nutritional awareness for youth and improve fitness and health among military age Americans by providing military leaders with the ability to open their base's sports fields, gyms and other facilities to youth seeking a place to exercise.
"Senator Murkowski has been an unwavering champion of policies designed to address the obesity epidemic in the United States," said the Campaign to End Obesity upon honoring Senator Murkowski. "Her leadership in advancing thoughtful policies to increase access to healthy lifestyles in schools and communities as well as championing legislation promoting healthy weight awareness for potential military personnel demonstrates her commitment to curbing obesity in the United States. The Campaign to End Obesity is proud to honor Senator Murkowski for her work to date and looks forward to continuing to work together to address this serious, costly public health challenge."