Physicians are not paid by health insurance companies to treat people with behavior “problems.” They get paid only to treat diseases. So, understanding where their bread is buttered, and by whom, the American Medical Association has now identified obesity as a disease. The Los Angeles Times had spotted the economic nature of the re-definition.
Tuesday’s vote is certain to step up pressure on health insurance companies to reimburse physicians for the time-consuming task of discussing obesity’s health risks with patients whose body mass index exceeds 30. It should also encourage doctors to direct these patients to weight-loss programs and to monitor their often-fitful progress.
It turns out that Uncle Sam has already fallen in line.
The federally funded Medicare program, which insures an estimated 13 million obese Americans who are over 65 or disabled, already covers the costs of “intensive behavioral therapy” for obese patients, as well as bariatric surgery for those with additional health conditions. But coverage for such obesity treatments has been uneven among private insurers.
Now it will be a lot more “even.” Watch your health insurance premiums rise! (Not mine, of course. I’m on Medicare.)
Best of all, obesity is an incurable disease.
“As things stand now, primary care physicians tend to look at obesity as a behavior problem,” said Dr. Rexford Ahima of University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism. “This will force primary care physicians to address it, even if we don’t have a cure for it.”
You know what an incurable disease is, don’t you? A permanent stream of income. The patient does not die, so he keeps coming back for “treatment.” Treatment means billable procedures.
Think of this as lowering the bar. People who are over a BMI of 30 are now called fat.
The federal government pioneered this re-definition in 1998. A CNN article described this revision.
Using the old criteria, the average woman — with a height of 5 feet, 4 inches (1.6 meters) and weighing 155 pounds (70 kilograms) — was considered overweight.
Under the new definition, that weight drops to 145 pounds (66 kg). A person at the same height who weighs 175 pounds (79 kg) would be considered obese.
That fattened up the public in one shot.
Or, put another way, 25 million Americans who weren’t fat before, are now. Even under the previous standards, more than half of all adult Americans are overweight.
Think of this. Over half of Americans now have an incurable disease — a billable incurable disease. But the AMA hesitated to cash in on this bonanza until this week. Now it has.
It’s time for a feast. Bring out the fatted calf!