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(NECN: Kristen Carosa) - Dr. Mitch Gitkind sees more than 1,000 patients a year here at the Weight Center at UMass Memorial Medical Center. He says most are dealing with obesity and the issues that come with it can be challenging to treat.
“We see patients with type 2 diabetes - serious conditions such as obstructive sleep apnea and we are very limited in terms of what we can offer to them that insurance companies to cover,” says Dr. Gitkind.
He says most forms of insurance don't cover obesity alone - but now that could change. The American Medical Association is now calling obesity a disease not just a public health issue.
Dr. Gitkind says that decision could have an impact on the way he and other doctors deliver care.
“It will at least give us a weapon to pull out and say to patients - we have something for you - your insurance will help you with this and we are optimistic that this will work for you,” he says.
Dr. Gitkind says the AMA's decision has no legal standing at this point, but he says the distinction is an important step in ensuring patients get the care they need.
“I think that this could be the beginning of moving forward with something that we have been stuck with when it comes to taking care of these patients for quite a long time.”
Dr. Gitkind says the AMA's decision could also increase funding for future obesity research. He says the groups support will help people gain access to all types of obesity treatment.
“Obesity is serious - I agree that this is a disease - the AMA is shining a light on this and it will give people more focus and we will be more proactive on prevention and treatment.”