Lawmakers look to combat obesity with expanded access to medication, therapy 

Physician legislators from both parties said that expanding access to medication and therapy for obesity is crucial to turning the tide in one of America’s great public health challenges. 

Rep. Raul RuizRaul Ruiz91 House Dems call on Senate to expand immigration protections in Biden spending bill White House to host lawmakers as negotiations over agenda hit critical stage Lawmakers look to combat obesity with expanded access to medication, therapy  MORE (D-CA) and Rep. Brad WenstrupBrad Robert WenstrupLawmakers look to combat obesity with expanded access to medication, therapy  The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Altria - Biden holds meetings to resurrect his spending plan America's veterans hold a reserve of national security strength we should tap MORE (R-OH), who are both medical doctors, discussed their proposal to increase prevention and modernize health policy at The Hill’s “Improving Obesity Care” event on Wednesday. 

The Treat and Reduce Obesity Act (TROA), which is awaiting hearings in the House Ways and Means subcommittee on healthcare, would use Medicare Part D to cover anti-obesity medication and behavioral therapy

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“If you combine behavioral health and therapy with medication, then you have better outcomes with your obesity plan and treatment,” Ruiz told The Hill’s Steve Clemons at the event, sponsored by Lilly.

“There’s a lot of mental health issues and anxiety that can lead to obesity, and then on the flip side, obesity can also lead to anxiety and some mental health issues as well,” he added. 

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than 42 percent of the U.S. population is obese, up from about 30 percent in 2000. And it notes a correlation between an increase in obesity and higher rates of depression

An analysis by the Asia Oceania Association for the Study of Obesity concluded that anti-obesity medications can be effective in weight loss and eating behaviors when combined with a “comprehensive lifestyle program.”

Ruiz noted that the TROA “it is a bipartisan bill” however “it is not included in any larger vehicle but it is something we are advocating to move through our committees.” The bill was referred to the Ways and Means subcommittee in March. 

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Wenstrup, co-chair of the Doctors Caucus, spoke of the stigma towards the obesity community, saying “education within our country and maybe within our schools” is a “key part of” addressing bias and misperceptions. 

Wenstrup said it’s crucial to “open the spectrum of care” for obese people. “What we’re asking for is to allow for reimbursement and coverage on two medications… so that it’s more accessible to people,” he added. 

“This is a healthcare issue,” he said, “an American healthcare issue for sure, and we need to address it.”