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Press Release

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Collaborates on Bipartisan Medicare Bill to Treat and Reduce Obesity

2013-06-19

Media Contacts: Ryan O'Malley, Allison MacMunn
800/877-1600, ext. 4769, 4802 media@eatright.org

CHICAGO – A promising bipartisan bill that increases vital access and reimbursement for obesity screening and counseling services has been introduced in Congress, thanks in part to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The Treat and Reduce Obesity Act of 2013 represents nearly two years of work by the Academy and its partners, including the Obesity Care Continuum. Under the proposed bill, Medicare recipients would also benefit from improved coverage of new prescription drugs for chronic obesity management.

"For nearly two years, the Academy has been working on developing legislation to expand coverage for registered dietitian nutritionists to provide intensive behavioral counseling for obesity outside of the primary care setting," said registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics President Dr. Glenna McCollum. "Further, this bill comes at an opportune time, considering the American Medical Association's recent announcement joining other organizations in classifying obesity as a disease."

The bill would allow registered dietitian nutritionists and other qualified health practitioners to independently provide – and be reimbursed for – intensive behavioral therapy for obesity for Medicare participants. In addition, information about intensive behavioral therapy for obesity would be highlighted and distributed to Medicare recipients and their doctors, ensuring they are aware of the valuable service.

This bill would also provide pharmacological interventions for chronic obesity management to those who are obese or overweight and suffer from one or more related conditions.

"We are excited about this bipartisan, bicameral bill, because it is the product of a longtime collaborative effort among the Academy, the Obesity Care Continuum, Senators Tom Carper (Del.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Representatives Bill Cassidy, MD, (La.) and Ron Kind (Wis.) and other partner organizations to generate legislation that would effectively address obesity in this country," McCollum said.

"Registered dietitian nutritionists are recognized as the trusted and credible source of food and nutrition information. By empowering our members to do their job effectively, we set them up to optimize the health of Americans and tackle the obesity epidemic head-on," McCollum said.

The Academy plans to execute a comprehensive strategy to move this legislation through Congress. Reaching out to senators and representatives, the Academy will take advantage of the opportunity to educate Congress about the importance of nutrition education and counseling.

The Academy will put in place an effective grassroots effort, asking member leaders in every state to meet with their members of Congress to help gain support for the bill.

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All registered dietitians are nutritionists – but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians. The Academy’s Board of Directors and Commission on Dietetic Registration have determined that those who hold the credential registered dietitian (RD) may optionally use "registered dietitian nutritionist" (RDN) instead. The two credentials have identical meanings.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving the nation’s health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy.