Three years ago, Medicare announced that it would offer free weight-loss counseling. This was seen as a positive step since at least 30 percent of seniors are obese (35 pounds or more overweight or having a body mass index above 30) and studies show that counseling services improve the odds of overcoming significant weight problems. However, less than 1 percent of Medicare’s 50 million beneficiaries have used the benefit so fare according to a recent Kaiser Health News article. A similar counseling service for people working to quit smoking enjoys a much more robust use despite the fact that it only affects 9 percent of the senior population.
Since smoking and obesity are two leading causes of preventable death in the United States, and increase the risk of many disease including diabetes, heart disease and cancer, there was hope that the counseling option would be successful but the government has done little to promote the option and doctors receive only a small fee for providing the benefit so they too are not heavily promoting the service. Still, counseling along with dietary and exercise change can produce modest changes in weight and improve blood sugar levels, mobility and reduce the incidence of diabetes. Read more here.