Obesity recognized as disease by AMA - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Obesity recognized as disease by AMA

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- America's expanding waistline is a sickness -- literally.

The American Medical Association says it now recognizes obesity as a disease, bringing up all sorts of questions about treatment and insurance coverage.

WDRB talked to health experts and asked how this could change the way the medical community fights the battle of the bulge.

Physicians say recognizing obesity as a disease is a move in the right direction.

"It puts pressure on doctors, researchers and healthcare workers to find a treatment for the disease of obesity," said Louisville surgeon Jeff Allen.

Allen says there is not a universally agreed upon definition of what even constitutes a disease.

Still, he says, putting obesity in that category raises awareness and could spur more insurers to pay for treatments.

"It certainly should put pressure on insurance companies, medicare, Medicaid and so forth to cover treatments for obesity be it surgical or medical," said Allen.

"I think it might push health insurance companies to reimburse doctor's time for counseling very heavily on lifestyle modification, weight loss, exercise which is the crux of the disease," said Zhlaet Baharestan, a physician with Highlands Internal Medicine.

By changing obesity's status from a major public health problem to a disease, some believe the AMA is hoping to open up the range of medical interventions that could help many Americans who are now considered obese.

"I think it will raise the controversy of obesity in that it's more of a medical approach," said Dr. Zhlaet Baharestan with Highlands Internal Medicine.

Baharestan says there's a lot of misinformation about what causes obesity.

She says many times, the patient gets blamed.

"It's not about blame. It's about getting healthy as a society because as a society we incur the costs," said Baharestan.

Wellness director of the downtown YMCA Annabelle Pike says the ruling is a positive change for them because it shows there are implications beyond just the physical aspect.

"This is a disease that requires multiple intervention levels. It encourages us to see there are other aspects from a wellness perspective,"said Pike.

Members of the AMA's board says this ruling could also help in the fight against Type 2 diabetes and heart disease which are linked to obesity.

WDRB reached out to Humana to find out the implications on the side of insurers.

We did not receive a call back.

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