End the Stigma – Treat Obesity like the Disease it is | A Special to GAPol by Minority Caucus Chairman Billy Mitchell

Millions of Americans suffer from obesity.  They are blamed for their weight; constantly being told they are not making good decisions. From friends and family to their own healthcare providers, they experience discrimination and bias from all sides. Many have searched high and low for affordable options and treatments to help manage what the medical community knows is a disease. After finally finding providers who wanted to help, they find the cost of treatment was simply out of reach.

We must put an end to the stigma and treat obesity as the complex and treatable disease that it is. Obesity is a costly epidemic and a leading contributor to some of the major causes of death, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer. Yet despite the conclusive evidence that obesity is a treatable disease, Medicare does not cover safe, FDA-approved anti-obesity medications. Until legislators recognize obesity as the life-threatening disease that it is, millions will continue to suffer needlessly. 

You are not alone.  Millions of people in Georgia are also struggling to seek treatment for obesity.

More than 33% of people living in Georgia are living with obesity. This includes 39.2% of Black adults living with obesity, while only 30.1% of white adults are.  Outdated policies barring access to affordable obesity care are further exacerbating health disparities. Seniors rely on Medicare to cover their essential healthcare, including the full spectrum of obesity care.

Obesity disproportionately impacts communities of color who already face systemic inequities in healthcare. Higher rates of obesity put communities of color at a greater risk for other serious chronic diseases. Black Americans are 77% and Latinx Americans are 66% more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes compared to their white counterparts, a disease that increases the likelihood for life threatening conditions like heart disease and stroke. Solving systemic racial inequity in our healthcare system will require comprehensive action to address social determinants of health and bias, and ensure equal access and affordability. But, we can start by treating obesity like the disease the medical community knows it is.

Our laws and regulations must be driven by science, including recognizing and treating obesity as a disease and one that is associated with numerous serious health conditions. The Treat & Reduce Obesity Act (TROA) is a real opportunity to address obesity by making obesity medications more widely available through Medicare. Senator Warnock — I implore you to do your part and help the millions of American who need access to lifesaving care.

We need to broaden effective treatment of chronic obesity to prevent serious and costly obesity-related conditions like diabetes and cancer and improve overall health and safety. Senator Warnock please keep pushing for passage of TROA and for updates at CMS.

Representative Billy Mitchell

Minority Caucus Chairman

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