wellness programs & obesity coverage
With the knowledge that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) makes it possible for employers to impose penalties on employees who don’t meet specific wellness goals, a recent study set out to examine the prevalence of employer practices linking wellness programs, goals for weight, and other health indicators, with access to evidence-based obesity treatment. The study’s lead author is Theodore K. Kyle, RPh, MBA, founder of ConscienHealth and Obesity Action Coalition board chairman. Below, Kyle shares his thoughts with ABOM about what makes this study relevant to obesity medicine specialists.

What prompted the study?
In recent years, employers have become tremendously interested in wellness programs and financial incentives for wellness that are permitted under Obamacare. We wanted to know if employers were demonstrating as much interest in providing access to evidence-based care for obesity. Without such access, people with significant obesity are unlikely to achieve good clinical outcomes.

From your perspective, what are the biggest takeaways from the results of the study?
Most of these wellness programs programs set targets for weight and related health indicators, but they do not typically provide coverage for evidence-based obesity treatments. For people seriously affected by obesity, that coverage gap described here is a real problem because substantial improvement in their condition is unlikely without evidence-based treatment.

What further action would you like to see as a result of the study?
I would like to see more employers walk the talk regarding obesity by providing good access to evidence-based obesity care in their health plans.

Is there anything in particular you hope physicians gain by learning more about this study?
Physicians can gain a better understanding of the increasing pressure that employers are putting on their patients with obesity.