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Medicare covers obesity screening, counseling

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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that Medicare is adding coverage for preventive services to reduce obesity. This adds to Medicare's existing portfolio of preventive services that are now available without cost sharing under the Affordable Care Act.

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It complements the Million Hearts initiative led jointly by CMS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in partnership with other HHS agencies, communities, health systems, nonprofit organizations, and private sector partners across the country to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes in the next 5 years.

Over 30 percent of both men and women in the Medicare population are estimated to be obese.  Obesity is directly or indirectly associated with many chronic diseases, including those that disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minorities such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Addressing the prevention of obesity related disparities has the potential to reduce obesity prevalence while also closing the gap on health disparities among Medicare beneficiaries.

Screening for obesity and counseling for eligible beneficiaries by primary care providers in settings such as physicians' offices are covered under this new benefit. For a beneficiary who screens positive for obesity with a body mass index (BMI) 30 kg/m2, the benefit would include one face-to-face counseling visit each week for one month and one face-to-face counseling visit every other week for an additional five months.

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