Libby introduces bill to reduce obesity and chronic disease in Maine

Posted: April 14, 2017 | Senator Libby

A bill introduced by Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, the Assistant Democratic Leader, to reduce obesity and chronic disease rates in Maine, had a public hearing in the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee on April 14.

The bill — LD 1162 “An Act To Reduce the Incidence of Obesity and Chronic Disease in Maine” — would make obesity treatment medications as well as medical nutritional therapy provided by physicians, licensed dietitians and dietitian nutritionists reimbursable under MaineCare.

About 30 percent of Maine adults are obese. Obesity is associated with preventable chronic diseases including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer. According to data from the National Institutes of Health, the medical costs associated with obesity are estimated at $147 billion.

“This is a straightforward and fiscally sound policy for the state’s health insurance program,” said Sen. Libby. “By making nutritional therapies and obesity treatment medications more affordable and accessible for people with MaineCare, we can help make people healthier, help them live longer, more productive lives and save money on treatments that they might have needed in the future for these preventable, chronic diseases.”

Many private insurers already cover these treatments and medications.

Dr. Matija Burtis, the Medical Director of Saint Mary’s Hospital’s Weight Management Program, spoke in favor of the bill.

“We are limited in our ability to provide for our MaineCare patients… due to coverage restraints,” said Dr. Burtis. “Everyone in our state is deserving of evidenced based care, not just those with private insurance.”

Also supporting the bill were the Maine Primary Care Association, the Maine Osteopathic Association, the Maine Hospital Association, the American Heart Association, the Maine Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and Dr. Victoria Weeks Rogers, the Associate Director of the American Academy of Pediatrics Institute for Healthy Childhood Weight and the Medical Director of the 5120 Let’s Go! Program.

LD 1162 faces further action in the Health and Human Services Committee and votes in the House and Senate.