American Medical Association classifies obesity as a disease

By WEEK Producer

June 19, 2013 Updated Jun 19, 2013 at 4:17 PM CDT

A new decision by the American Medical Association to classify obesity as a disease could change the way doctors and insurance companies treat and cover obese patients.

Physicians have said it all along, obesity is a disease, not a disorder or condition.

That according to Doctor Jorge Rabaza, Chief of Surgery at South Miami Hospital and weight loss specialist.

The reason? Obesity has far reaching detrimental medical effects.

"Among the medical people it has always been considered a disease, because it leads to someone with diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, heart disease,” said Dr. Rabaza.

Because of that, health care costs are huge. By recognizing and declaring obesity as a disease doctors would be able to treat it aggressively, which now physicians don't.

During checks up and appointments for other ailments, Dr. Rabaza says a lot of physicians will notice a patient tipping the scales and in passing suggest, you need to drop some pounds.

"For example if you go to the doctor now and have high blood pressure, he's going to treat for high blood pressure, bring you back in a couple of weeks and see how you're doing,” he said. “These obese patients don't get that. They say, 'hey lose the weight.”

The good doctor adds it makes sense to pay physicians to treat obesity aggressively because there's documented proof it works.

"We'll treat patients who are morbidly obese, and have been morbidly obese for years. We operate on them, they lose the weight, the diabetes goes away. The hypertension goes away'," he said.

The medical hurdle here is the insurance companies how to get them to pay. Dr. Rabaza says the AMA has clout.

"The American Medical Association is one of the largest medical associations in the country. So they have to listen to what they are saying," he said.

One third of American's are categorized as obese.

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