Maryland aims to conduct study on impact of requiring medical coverage for obesity treatment 


Hannah Saunders


With about 27 percent of Maryland adults living with obesity, according to the body mass index scale, the state is aiming to conduct a new study that could help address the negative health outcomes associated with the disease.  

Senate Bill 594 and House Bill 986, which were cross-filed, were recently passed in the legislature, and await Gov. Wes Moore’s signature. If signed into law, the bills would require the Maryland Department of Health to conduct a study on the impact of requiring the Maryland Medical Assistance Program to provide comprehensive coverage for the treatment of obesity. The study would identify and compare obesity coverage in other states, and examine and estimate any potential savings that may result from requiring obesity coverage.

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Lawmakers discussed SB 594 and HB 986 in a Public Health and Minority Health Disparities Subcommittee meeting on April 2. 

Erin Hopwood, staff for Maryland’s House Health and Government Operations (HGO) Committee, said coverage for obesity treatment includes intensive behavioral therapy, bariatric surgery, and any medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat obesity.  

The Maryland Department of Health (MDH) would be tasked with identifying and comparing coverage options for the treatment of obesity under medical assistance programs and additional health programs in other states. The department would also assess and estimate any possible savings from requiring comprehensive coverage for obesity treatment. MDH would report its findings to the HGO committee, as well as the Senate Finance Committee by Dec. 24.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the financial costs associated with the treatment of obesity in America are estimated to be $147 billion. About 65 percent of Maryland adults are considered to be overweight.  

Obesity can be tied to numerous chronic diseases, like prediabetes, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, and coronary heart disease. An individual’s health problems can begin if they are slightly overweight, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), but obesity is preventable. To be successful at maintaining a healthy weight, individuals must balance calories consumed and calories used, WHO said.  

“To reach this goal, people can limit energy intake from total fats and shift fat from consumption away from saturated fats to unsaturated fats; increase consumption of fruit and vegetables, as well as legumes, whole grains and nuts; and limit their intake of sugar,” WHO stated. “And to increase calories used, people can boost their levels of physical activity to at least 30 minutes of regular, moderate-intensity activity on most days.”  

Low-carb diets, which encourage the consumption of proteins, fresh fruits, vegetables, and other natural fats, have also helped people mitigate their obesity.  

Readers interested in learning more about health issues in Maryland can register to attend our 2024 Maryland State of Reform Health Policy Conference, which will be held on June 7 at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront. 

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