Stealth Provision Expands Obesity Coverage for Millions

July 21st, 2010 by MorganDowney Leave a reply »

 

On July 19, 2010, The Department of Health and Human Services issued ‘interim final regulations’ requiring  insurers in the group and individual markets  to include preventive services without any cost sharing as part of the the health care reform law signed by President Obama earlier this year. Preventive services include an important, sleeper provision regarding obesity. Here’s how it works.

The law defines “preventive services” as those with an A or B grade recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). The USPSTF has B grade recommendations for intensive behavioral counseling for adults with obesity and for screening and counseling for children. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations

Coverage without cost sharing goes into effect on September 23, 2010. Interestingly, the regulations do not provide any limitations on the frequency, intensity or duration of such coverage. This represents a significant new benefit coverage  affecting millions of Americans. Most of the USPSTF recommendations cover screening tests but counseling is covered for tobacco cessation, sexually transmitted infections, dietary counseling for persons with hyperlipidemia and related cardiovascular risk factors, and promote breast-feeding.

I call this a stealth provision because Congress assumed the USPSTF recommendations were screening tests and probably would have rejected this kind of coverage as a listed benefit.

The regulation background information discusses the low level of obesity counseling presently and the benefits to be expected from broader coverage.

Comments can be received for 60 days from July 14, 2010. The proposed regulation can be accessed at Federal Register Contents, Monday, July 19, 2010

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