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This Issue
Our Updated Review of State Employee Health Plan Obesity Coverage
STOP Resources                 
Educators       Providers         Parents


Although obesity imposes an enormous burden on our health care system and the economy, the present landscape of coverage for obesity care is piecemeal. Our fragmented healthcare system makes it difficult to know what care is available and how much it costs.
Without guidance on how to operationalize evidence-based obesity treatment modalities as health benefits, health care plans have taken vastly different approaches in determining what and how obesity treatment services are covered for their members. To complicate matters, information about what services are covered, for whom, and where and how care should be delivered, is spread across various administrative plan documents and sources.
As part of our efforts to improve the treatment and management of obesity, our team has been exploring which insurance carriers are paying for these services and if patients are utilizing treatment. In 2009 and 2017, we conducted a state-by-state analysis of Medicaid and State Employee Health Plan (SEHP) coverage for obesity prevention and treatment. The results of this research were published in the journal Obesity.
Last year, we collected new data on SEHP coverage of obesity benefits for plan year 2021. Our results are being published in the August edition of Obesity. We reviewed publicly available documents, such as websites for state human resources departments, state pension boards, and health plans, to determine coverage for prevention and screening, nutrition counseling, drug therapy, and bariatric surgery. We found that all 50 states provided coverage for prevention and screening, 42 states provided coverage for nutrition counseling, 44 states covered bariatric surgery, but only 16 states provided coverage for pharmacotherapy treatment of obesity.

The new data collected in 2021 were compared to data collected in 2009 and 2017 to assess if coverage had increased or decreased. Over that time period, the number of states that covered at least two treatment modalities increased from 2009 to 2021, and the number of states that did not cover any of the treatment modalities decreased from 2009 to 2021. However, we found a slight decrease in the total number of states that covered three treatment modalities from 2017 to 2021. Most surprisingly there was a reduction between 2017 and 2021 of coverage for pharmacotherapy; nine states dropped coverage.

In addition and for the first time, we attempted to collect utilization data from the states. Although utilization data were only received from 8 states, we found an underutilization of obesity benefits by plan enrollees when compared to each state’s rate of obesity. For example, the Texas Employee Retirement System, one of the state agencies that provided a complete data set for analysis, only 39 patients received bariatric surgery and only 5 prescription drug claims were filed. Additional research is needed to understand the scope of the underutilization of benefits when they are available, but we think that our findings emphasize the need to publicize these benefits to providers and patients, and to increase the demand for comprehensive obesity treatment services.
Despite the lack of progress in providing comprehensive obesity benefits, we acknowledge that there has been a concerted effort over the last two years to reverse this trend. Several advocates within states have been working behind the scenes to convince policymakers and administration to add coverage for all obesity treatments. For example, SEHPs in Georgia, Florida, and Arkansas have plans to add or expand coverage for pharmacotherapy in 2023.
To improve the treatment and management of obesity, coverage must be expanded. To do this, the STOP Obesity Alliance has made the following recommendations:

  • identify model obesity treatment coverage plans, and when coverage is available, assess the utilization of benefits;
  • encourage patients to demand coverage from their health plans and employers;
  • continue to advocate for expanded coverage from state employee health plans at the state capitols; and
  • increase studies of the return on investment to health plans and employers from covering all obesity treatment modalities.


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Upcoming Events

Sep 15: Nutrition2022 Virtual Event
Sep 20: COPE Online Series Kick-Off
Oct 12-16: Overcoming Obesity 2022
Nov 10-12: ASMBS 2022 Weekend

Health Affairs Forefront Publication
Obesity Management in Primary Care Training and Certificate Program
Sounding the Alarm on the Unwinding of SNAP Benefits
Health Affairs Forefront has published a piece by Professor Leighton Ku, Dr. Erin Brantley, and Redstone Fellow and Health Policy Doctoral candidate Sydney Pryor on the ways in which the upcoming expiration of the public health emergency will jeopardize food access for tens of millions of people who participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). With most participants at risk of losing roughly 1/3 of their monthly SNAP allotment, now is the time for state governments to act. 

Read the full piece and proposed policy solutions here.
Obesity Management in Primary Care Training and Certificate Program
The American Academy of Physician Associates (AAPA), The Obesity Society (TOS), and the National Association for Continuing Education (NACE) are happy to announce that their Obesity Management in Primary Care Training and Certificate Program will begin enrolling its 3rd cohort of learners this Fall. This two-part program is designed to develop the knowledge and skills required of physician associates/assistants (PAs) and Nurse Practitioners (NPs) need to treat obesity within the context of a primary-care practice.  

NACE will kick-off part I of this CME/CE program and generate interest for the Certificate Program through a series of live virtual symposia that is scheduled to launch on August 6, 2022. The Certificate Program (part II) consists of 10 self-paced modules, each of which consists of reading assignments, a clinical webinar, a webinar focusing on translating knowledge learned into practice, and clinical and patient education resources.

TOS is lending content expertise and will issue a professional certificate to those who complete all aspects of the Certificate Program. Registration for the Certificate Program will open on November 1, 2022 and the course formally opens on December 1, 2022 (and will remain available until November 30, 2023). While the virtual symposia series is free, the cost for the Certificate Program course is $299. The program is funded in part through an educational grant from Novo Nordisk.

Interested PAs and NPs are welcome to send an email to to receive a notification when registration opens.
Virtual Event: Recent Advances in the Treatment of Obesity
Join obesity experts Ania M. Jastreboff, MD, PhD (Yale University School of Medicine) and John Buse, MD, PhD (University of North Carolina School of Medicine) on September 15th at 1:00 p.m. ET for a review of current options for the pharmacological treatment of obesity. This is part of the American Society for Nutrition’s year-round content, Nutrition Rounds – Research to Practice. Discussion will include the role of diet counseling and lifestyle interventions with new obesity therapies. Continuing education credits will be provided. 

Learn more here.
Villanova University's MacDonald Center for Obesity Prevention and Education (COPE) online continuing education series you do not want to miss!

Kick-off September 20 at 5:30pm ET

Featuring Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP, CCMS
Associate Professor of Medicine, George Washington University
Director, George Washington University Culinary Medicine Program
Founder and Senior Advisor, Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine

Recognizing that a global epidemic of diet-related chronic disease is impacting health on both an individual and population health level, greater emphasis than ever is being placed on the role of food and nutrition interventions delivered both within and outside the health care system in the prevention, management, and treatment of diseases.

In response to this growing trend, COPE presents a 5-module, interprofessional online series addressing the Food as Medicine movement. Join us for an end-to-end learning experience featuring expert speakers who will provide practical strategies and showcase successful initiatives and research that make identifying, preparing, accessing, delivering, and funding health-promoting, nutritious foods a priority in health professional training programs, clinical practice, community organizations, health policy law, and popular media. 

Learn more here.
Attend the Overcoming Obesity 2022 Conference
Attend the Overcoming Obesity 2022 Conference in Anaheim, CA, Oct. 12-16 and earn up to 30 CME/CE. Expand your skills to treat patients with obesity focusing on nutrition, behavioral modification, physical activity, and pharmacotherapy. Dive into advanced techniques for developing personalized treatment plans for patients with type 1 diabetes, bipolar disorder, adolescents with obesity, patients with limited resources, and much more.

Register here.
Save the Date: ASMBS 2022 Weekend Meeting
The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) invites you to the 2022 Weekend Meeting in San Antonio, Texas, November 10th – 12th at the Grand Hyatt San Antonio River Walk.

Registration will open soon for this event, where experts and peers in metabolic and bariatric surgery will expand their knowledge and enjoy networking opportunities during a weekend in historic San Antonio!
Registration Rates for ObesityWeek® 2022 Increase After Aug. 1
Register now and secure housing for ObesityWeek® — the preeminent international conference for obesity researchers and clinicians before Early-bird rates end Aug. 1. ObesityWeek® 2022 is a hybrid conference this year. Register for in-person Nov. 1-4, 2022, in San Diego, Calif., or virtual attendance. All registrants receive two full months of access to recordings of all sessions.

Learn more here.
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