You may have heard on the news that Medicare recently made a decision to cover “Intensive Behavioral Therapy for Obesity”. At first, I was very excited when I heard the news because I felt like it could help people get access to the education and support they need to lose weight. However, after reading more about it, I realized that there is one major problem- they have excluded dietitians from being covered providers.
If you have found your way to my blog, you probably already recognize that dietitians are the professionals that are most qualified to provide nutrition counseling. Most dietitians have a 4 year undergraduate degree in nutrition and dietetics and then have gone on to do a dietetic internship after college. Some dietitians, like me, have also gone on to receive a Certification in Adult Weight Management from the American Dietetic Association. So excluding dietitians from providing nutrition counseling for weight management is like Medicare deciding to offer coverage for physical therapy treatment but not by a qualified physical therapist.
Perhaps you’re asking, if not registered dietitians, than who? Primary care physicians and nurses in the primary care setting are the ones approved to provide nutrition counseling. While there are some MDs that are knowledgeable about nutrition, a recent survey of primary-care physicians showed that 78 percent said they had no prior training on weight-related issues. Many of them have just had 1 or 2 nutrition classes in school. Also, many doctors do not have the time to spend with their patients educating them on weight management. In fact, some studies have shown that the average doctor spends 7 minutes with a patient. Not to mention, this would take a physicians’ time away from treating patients for other medical conditions.
So, what can you do to help?
There is currently a petition going around from the American Dietetic Association to have dietitians added to the list of reimbursable providers. If they get enough signatures by January 7th, we may be able to have dietitians included on the bill.
It only takes a minute to sign the petition. So, if you agree that dietitians should be allowed to counsel Medicare patients on weight management, please go to the following link: