Today, the American Medical Association (AMA) came out and stated that obesity is a disease. This is a pretty big deal. This means that obesity can be medically treated as the disease that it is and not just treated as a character flaw. All I can say is it is about freaking time. Eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia have long been treated as illnesses, but obesity has always been viewed as a deficit in the character of the obese individual.
I do not know what the full implications will mean, what insurance will be required to cover, etc., but this is a big step and one that I hope will lead to effective treatments for people struggling with obesity. The Today Show did a nice little piece about this very exciting bit of news this morning.
I know my personal experience with fighting obesity is complex. Often doctors just said, “please lose weight.” Or asked, “What are you doing to lose weight?” Now doctors will be able to look at you like an individual and work on a weight loss plan with you or recommend you to someone who can. Insurance companies, in the past, have refused to pay doctor bills for my annual physical because the doctor added, “patient should lose weight” to their comments in my file. The reason the insurance company used to deny payment was, “plan does not cover weight loss treatments.” It didn’t matter that this was my annual physical, which was theoretically covered under the plan.
If insurances agencies and company benefit plans can be compelled to offer obesity treatments in their benefit packages, that would be great. Many companies that provide insurance to their employees already try to offer incentives for people to improve their health. Making obesity treatment and prevention part of the benefit package would really increase the likelihood people will be able to make those adjustments. This would also hopefully remove some of the stigma attached to obesity and help many people receive appropriate healthy treatment.
I think this is a big health victory for Americans and could really go a long way to making it possible for people to receive proper treatment and preventative care for obesity.