Many of us are overweight, struggling to figure out how to shake off some pounds. And, it’s never easy. The good news is that if you’re looking for help losing weight, Medicare pays the full cost of weight-loss counseling. The bad news is that only a very small percentage of the people who might benefit from weight counseling are taking advantage of it.
The Centers for Disease Control reports that more than three in 10 people with Medicare are obese. And, obesity contributes to chronic health conditions, including heart disease, some types of cancer and diabetes. Studies show that counseling can help people take steps to lose significant weight.
Yet, for reasons that are unclear, fewer than 0.25 percent of the 50 million people with Medicare, 120,000, have taken advantage of the obesity-counseling benefit. They may not be aware of the obesity-counseling benefit or may not be able to find doctors who will provide the counseling services.
Only primary care doctors or the nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants who practice in their offices can provide this covered service. In sharp contrast, 250,000 people with Medicare have taken advantage of smoking-cessation counseling, which Medicare also covers.
The Medicare obesity-counseling benefit includes a weekly session for the first month and a session every two weeks for the next five months. Another six months of counseling, one visit each month, is covered for people who lose at least 6.6 pounds during the first six months of counseling. For more information, visit Medicare Interactive.