Government changes Medicare language on obesity

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will remove from the Medicare manual language stating that obesity is not an illness, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Although advocates may be disappointed that obesity won't be classified separately as a disease, the changes will provide for Medicare to cover more obesity treatments if they are scientifically proven to improve health.  Right now, the program only pays for obesity treatments if related conditions exist, such as diabetes.

No immediate changes will be made in coverage, but the new policy will allow Medicare to review scientific evidence to determine which treatments are necessary for health improvement. If such evidence exists, Medicare would provide funding for procedures such as gastric bypass surgery.

According to U.S. government surveys, 19.8% of Americans ages 65 and older are obese.