A new decision by the American Medical Association to classify obesity as a disease could mean major changes for you, the patient.
This is significant because it could change the way doctors and insurance companies treat and cover obese patients.
Think about it: If obesity is a disease, you may one day have insurance cover your weight-loss program as part of prevention.
By the year 2030, the Centers for Disease Control estimates 42 percent of all Americans will be obese. Now, the American Medical Association weighs in, saying obesity should be classified as a disease.
Dr. Rohini Ashok, the director of the weight-loss management program at Kaiser San Jose, says the decision is long overdue. She says it will help doctors deal with obesity as a problem just as significant as heart disease and diabetes.
“Obesity causes hypertension, diabetes and we tell patients to lose weight , but we only treat the high blood pressure,” said Dr. Ashok. “With this change, it can be a primary diagnosis.”
Ashok says recognizing obesity as a disease will help patients.
“This will also help take away the stigma and discrimination, because now it is a medical problem, and the sooner we recognize this the more we can do,” Ashok said.
Ashok says the move to consider obesity a disease may also prompt insurance companies to cover weight-loss programs and treatments.
Dr. Ashok hopes the AMA's decision will also make it easier for policymakers to do more to curb obesity and get the government to conduct more research into the growing problem.
Many doctors think this move will actually help reduce overall health care costs. If more doctors tackle obesity as a disease, then that could mean fewer people diagnosed with diseases linked directly to obesity, such as heart disease and diabetes.