One June 18, 2013, in one more sign that this country is moving towards a preventative centric health system, the American Medical Association (AMA) redefined obesity as a disease rather than a chronic condition/disorder. The change obligates U.S. physicians to provide medical treatment to the 33 % of adults and 17 % of children with a body mass index greater than 30. This redefinition is, as yet, non-binding on private insurance companies however. But can full treatment coverage be far behind when Medicare already reimburses certain weight related treatments and services? What does it all mean for other healthcare professionals, particularly physical therapists, positioning themselves to combat an epidemic that threatens to overwhelm our healthcare system?
A recent University of Malaga, Spain study revealed that obesity limits the effectiveness of multimodal physical therapy, while a U.S. study drew similar conclusions about surgical and non-surgical treatments for lumbar disc herniation. Despite these findings, PTs adhere to the idea that customized therapeutic musculoskeletal exercises have a significant impact on the overall lifestyle of their overweight patients. Given the length and frequency of interactions, PT is innately suited to be, as Colin Hoobler, PT, DPT, MS states: “a game changer in a health care system devoid of answers for patients who are severely deconditioned/obese and have chronic health problems.”
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) with its emphasis on disease prevention and its elimination of pre-existing conditions as insurance exclusions, aligns well with the goals of Physical Therapy. As patients present with various musculoskeletal issues, the therapist can now openly and candidly deal with the underlying cause of the pain in those who are obese. We hope that broader, longitudinal studies will support the prevailing wisdom that PT can affect successful mobility outcomes and change lives in this population. If you are a PTA or PT who wants to change lives, contact the Centra Team at 800 535 0076.