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Outdated Medicare policies don't cover needed medications or therapy, despite public health epidemic

During the first full week of April each year, the United States observes National Public Health Week as a time to recognize the contributions of public health and highlight issues that are important to improving our nation's health. When it comes to issues that require action, obesity must be at the top of the list.

Obesity is a complex and treatable disease that it is a leading contributor to some of the major causes of death, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer. According to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), in 2017, 29% of Oregon adults were obese. That proportion has almost tripled since 1990 creating real financial pressure on our health system and critical safety net programs like Medicare.

There have been amazing advancements in treatments for obesity including FDA-approved anti-obesity medications and effective behavioral therapies. However, outdated Medicare policies do not cover any anti-obesity medications nor do they cover behavioral therapy unless it is administered by a primary care physician. While these barriers that prevent widespread access to proven and effective obesity treatments exist, people will suffer needlessly.

I am a lifelong and active Democrat and one of the things that makes me proud to be a member of my party is a shared commitment amongst Democrats to improve public health. Here is hoping that the Biden administration and Congress will move quickly to update Medicare rules to make proven and effective obesity treatments more accessible for patients that need them.

Moses Ross lives in Southwest Portland

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