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Do health insurance plans cover obesity prevention and treatment for my child?

Posted Sep 17 2009 10:34pm

Do health insurance plans cover weight management programs for children and adolescents?  The short answer in the past was a resounding "No!".  Now, as of this year, the tides seem to be changing somewhat, and not a moment too soon.  Super news! Long-awaited health insurance coverage of obesity prevention and treatment is coming!

Two week ago, an article in  Healthcare Finance News   regarding health plans doing innovative things to combat obesity.  Some featured health insurance carriers are BlueChoice Health Plan of South Carolina and BCBS of Michigan.

In May 2005, the  Alliance for a Healthier Generation   became public -- the  American Heart Association  and the  William J. Clinton Foundation  joined forces to address the issue of childhood obesity.  Its mission is to decrease the prevalence of childhood obesity by 2015.  Just a few months ago, in February of 2009, it announced that for the first time, employers and insurers would begin to cover the costs of childhood obesity prevention and treatment in the form of the  Alliance Healthcare Initiative.  

So, what does this Initiative involve?  The benefits for eligible children include 4 visits with their primary care provider and 4 visits with a registered dietician every year -- the purpose is for these families to receive support regarding healthy lifestyles.  

What companies are participating?  

  • Health insurance organizations offering this benefit include Aetna, BCBS of North Carolina and Massachusetts, Wellpoint
  • Employers participating as customers of Aetna include Mars, Owens Corning, and Paychex
  • PepsiCo, the William J. Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association offer these benefits to their employees

What can I do if my child's insurance company is not listed as participating?  

  • Contact the insurance carrier directly.  Many are considering adding these benefits for their members and the more that they hear from you, members and concerned parents, the better and potentially the faster that coverage will be ensured.  
  • While in contact with the carrier, ask what benefits you and your family may be eligible for.  Many now include gym membership discounts and weight loss companies (just be cautious and choosy -- there are many out there!).  Key words to use while asking about information are weight management, health and fitness, dietician / nutritionist visits, and obesity prevention.
  • Contact your employer and encourage them to become one of the participating companies in the Initiative.
  • Do talk to your child's doctor -- much can still be done in conjunction with your child's primary care physician to help your child.  The Alliance website provides great resources and information from  parenting tips  to prevent obesity to  fitness  for kids and teens to  healthy eating tips.   

And one more detail... the Alliance has designated this month of September as Go Healthy month!  You and your tween or teen check out the  EmpowerME  website for more information.

Picture by Andre Kiselev, PhotoXpress

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