Report: Medicare should cover nutritional counseling for chronic conditions

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Medicare should reimburse for medical nutrition therapy (MNT) — or consultations with a registered dietician — to prevent and treat chronic health conditions such as hypertension, obesity, cancer and renal disease.

That's the position advanced in a new request submitted to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Officials from the Academy contend that most chronic health conditions can be controlled or treated with MNT. Medicare currently reimburses only treatments for individuals with diabetes or renal disease. Earlier this fall, CMS proposed covering intensive behavioral therapy for Medicare Part A and Part B beneficiaries with obesity.

The majority of Medicare spending is on beneficiaries with chronic conditions, and nearly 70% of beneficiaries have cardiovascular disease, says Marsha Schofield, R.D., the Academy's director of nutrition services coverage.

“Chronic conditions can be controlled or treated with medical nutrition therapy, so it just makes sense to try to expand the Medicare beneficiary's access to these important services," Schofield said.

The Academy's request to CMS is published in the January 2012 issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Click here to listen to an accompanying podcast.