Monday, December 19, 2011

Reducing the Costs of Our Healthcare System

Lifestyle interventions are required to adequately address the rise in obesity 
Medicare has recently decided to cover Intensive Behavioral Therapy for Obesity (IBTO). This landmark decision is very important because obesity will now be recognized independently from co-morbidities such as diabetes and heart disease. Medicare recipients who are obese without other health problems will be allowed to receive IBTO without co-pay in the hope of preventing the development of chronic diseases associated with obesity. The potential for saving healthcare dollars is great, but there is one caveat of this new coverage: The most qualified professionals to provide IBTO are excluded from directly billing Medicare for this service.

Intensive Behavioral Therapy for Obesity will include:

1. Screening for obesity in adults using measurement of BMI calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by the square of height in meters (expressed in kg/m2);

2. Dietary (nutritional) assessment; and

3. Intensive behavioral counseling and behavioral therapy to promote sustained weight loss through high intensity interventions on diet and exercise.

Patients who meet screening eligibility are entitled to:

• One face-to-face visit every week for the first month;

• One face-to-face visit every other week for months 2-6;

• One face-to-face visit every month for months 7-12, if the beneficiary meets the 3kg weight loss requirement.

Medicare names primary care physicians, clinical nurse specialists, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants as being the only professionals who can bill Medicare for IBTO and the primary care clinic as the only site where IBTO can be provided. This leaves out registered dietitians and clinical psychologists, whose training qualifies them over primary care practitioners to most effectively provide this service. Patients who desire to work intensively with dietitians or psychologists will have to pay for these services on their own.

After reviewing the ruling posted on Medicare’s website and looking over the references that were provided in support of IBTO coverage, I’m stumped by this decision. Many of the references cited had dietary interventions provided by registered dietitians. A 2004 article published in the Annals of Internal Medicine by the Centers for Disease Control and the Primary Prevention Working Group names dietitians among the most qualified providers to administer lifestyle interventions. This same article states, “even the most highly motivated physicians typically have minimal education or training in lifestyle intervention, and they usually have inadequate access in their practice to the resources needed to support lifestyle intervention. Well-intentioned attempts by physicians to practice “lifestyle medicine” with scarce resources can lead to embittered rejection of health promotion.” The article then goes on to state, “No efficacy study had physicians directly involved in delivering interventions.”

Dietitians bill insurance at 85% of the physician rate. It doesn’t make fiscal sense to allow primary care providers to bill at a higher rate for IBTO when they are not trained in this technique and they do not have the time to provide such involved therapy. I hope in the future that Medicare sees the value that registered dietitians and clinical psychologists bring to the treatment of obesity and allows them to bill for this service independently from primary care providers.

Please support the effort to urge Medicare to allow registered dietitians to directly bill for obesity services by signing this White House petition by January 7, 2012.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Primary Prevention Working Group.
Primary Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus by Lifestyle Intervention: Implications for Health Policy. Ann Intern Med. 2004; 140:951-957

1 comment:

  1. I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this post. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well.