Doctors and Insurance Companies Further Hurting the Obesity Crisis

by Matt Weik

We have a major crisis on our hands—the obesity crisis. And for some reason, doctors are not diagnosing this issue properly. Almost as if to push it to the side because they don’t want to offend anyone or it doesn’t put money in their pocket. What this is ultimately doing is creating an even deeper hole for the condition. And because insurance companies don’t want to touch weight loss surgery, it ultimately hurts those who truly need help before it’s too late.

The Crisis

More than 60% of Americans are overweight. Around 30% of them are considered obese. More times than not, individuals got to that point in their lives due to poor choices—generally living a sedentary life full of poor nutritional choices. Many will say they did it to themselves, and that’s true. But we can’t simply turn our backs and wish them the best as their health becomes a ticking time bomb.

What Can be Done?

For starters, people need to start taking their health more seriously. Stop eating junk and start reading nutrition labels. Put the poor food choices down and instead choose healthy options that serve a purpose in your body. You are what you eat and you can’t out-train a poor diet.

Secondly, doctors need to start taking this crisis seriously and start calling a spade a spade and stop thinking about people’s feelings as well as their own wallet. At the point someone is considered obese, it becomes extremely detrimental to their health and doctors need to step in. Enough with not wanting to offend anyone because they are a special snowflake. Get over it. By not saying anything you are part of the problem and could be assisting these individuals into an early grave.

Thirdly, health insurance companies need to start making weight loss services part of their coverage. This is a real disease and should be treated as such. Not allowing someone to seek help for a disease that is killing them from the inside out, is reckless. Get with the times. The obesity crisis isn’t going away anytime soon, so make changes to coverage NOW, before it’s too late.

What the Research is Showing

Researchers are clearly stating how important it is that health insurance plans cover weight loss services to help those struggling with their weight and obesity. Their research is also showing that three out of four patients going to the doctors are either overweight or obese. Yet only 48% of those individuals who have a BMI over 30 are found to have been told of their condition or a diagnosis for obesity. This is a real problem that doctors are so neglectful when it comes to weight issues.

After looking at studies, researchers have said, “These two barriers to care — no insurance for medical weight loss support and lack of initial diagnosis — can negatively impact people with obesity or overweight as they seek support from those most adept, trained weight-loss professionals. While self-management strategies, such as following a commercial diet or increasing exercise, can help in some individuals, most people with obesity, especially those with severe obesity, can benefit from a comprehensive approach that includes healthcare professional support. More than half, 57%, of the 450 health professionals we surveyed believe that improved health insurance coverage for weight loss is a solution to greater access to care, and this finding cuts across all patient income levels. Furthermore, we found that a quarter of health professionals perceive current insurance coverage to be a weight-loss challenge.”

Let’s go back to the figure where less than half of the patients at a Cleveland Clinic with a BMI greater than 30 were diagnosed as being obese. Many of these people know they have weight issues but they aren’t up to speed with exactly what that is slowly doing to their body. Many simply see themselves as being overweight or “fat” (oh my gosh, how dare we use the “F” word in society today). They don’t truly understand the consequences of their poor lifestyle because no one educates them on their condition—including doctors. One researcher mentioned, “The disease of obesity is very prevalent yet too often under diagnosed, which could be an important barrier to getting initial care. By providing a formal diagnosis, we may be able to help people get the treatment they need to lose weight and get healthy.”

Let’s take a look at a possibility of why doctors might not diagnose patients that are overweight or obese. It could have to do with greed—a terrible reason to turn your back on a patient. A researcher said, “This could go hand-in-hand with coverage: if doctors aren’t being paid to treat obesity, they may not see any benefit in making a formal diagnosis. Regardless, there is a clear need to advance the understanding of medical diagnosis and treatment of obesity across the spectrum, from providers to policymakers.” If this is truly found to be the reason why doctors aren’t concerned about patients’ weight, it’s my opinion that they should be removed from their practice. It’s completely negligent and reckless to not diagnose someone who they very well know is suffering from obesity and are doing themselves harm by living that lifestyle without intervening and trying to help. Doctors are paid to help treat patients of all walks of life with several different ailments—obesity included. There’s no reason to neglect this piece of their practice. In fact, many of the issues a patient is having is more than likely stemming from their weight/obesity issue. Rather being part of the problem, doctors and insurance companies should be working together to be part of the solution. People’s lives depend on your intervention.

Materials provided by Obesity Society.