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Opinion: It’s Time for Obesity Medications to Be Covered Drugs

We need a stronger sense of urgency to fight the obesity epidemic. I have seen too many individuals fall victim to this illness, especially our seniors. While every patient should consult their primary care doctor about the course that’s best for them, many obesity medications are lifesaving drugs.

As head of the Missouri Pharmacy Association, I have heard from concerned local pharmacists across the state. These pharmacists cannot help many patients because lifesaving obesity-treating medications are too costly. With a larger percentage of our elderly population suffering from obesity than ever before, our seniors need is evident. Medication to treat obesity is inaccessible for our aging population due to outdated provisions that exclude the coverage of obesity-treating medication under the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act (MMA) and Medicare Part D.

The lack of updated regulations is simply inexcusable for our aging population. We must keep up with the times and provide necessary care for our seniors. Obesity cannot be cast aside as a cosmetic concern. For many, especially seniors, it is an issue of life or death and a known risk factor for chronic illnesses. Obesity can cause or exacerbate illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and many more. Not only do these chronic diseases inflict substantial burdens on our seniors, but they create a significant problem for taxpayers by raising Medicare spending tenfold.

Medicare is one of the largest drivers of rising debt, and taxpayers pay excessive amounts to support this plan. Medicare spends over $92.1 billion each year to combat obesity and its related effects. Similarly, other insurers spend anywhere between $200 and $500 billion. There is a solution available to reduce this spending by covering obesity-treating medications under Medicare. Treating obesity in elders will save taxpayer expenses and re-invest money in the economy. Healthy seniors are more likely to participate in the economy; further, there is proven data that airlines save money on fuel carrying a lighter population.

We must cover obesity-treating medications under Medicare to reduce the need for government spending on treatments and to ensure fewer hospital trips for our seniors.

I call upon the Missouri Congressional delegation to co-sponsor H.R.4818, and its senate counterpart – S. 2407 both titled the “Treat and Reduce Obesity Act”. These bills will expand the coverage of vital obesity treatments under Medicare which will provide our seniors the comfort and care they deserve. I urge all members of the delegation to cosponsor this legislation and overturn the outdated restrictions established in 2003. We owe it to all Missourians to improve care and reduce unnecessary spending.