New Bill May Cover Nutrition Counseling for Medicare Beneficiaries with Prediabetes

 

 

A bill introduced in the US House of Representatives may expand access to medical nutrition therapy to Medicare beneficiaries. The bipartisan initiative, which was introduced by Representatives Eliot Engel (D) and Peter King (R) from New York, would allow Medicare beneficiaries to obtain treatment from registered dietitian nutritionists and other qualified nutrition experts for many common chronic diseases.

“Right now, Medicare part B only covers medical nutrition therapy for people with diabetes and renal disease. The new legislation would expand it to cover many other chronic diseases,” says Rachel Stahl, a registered dietitian and a certified diabetes care and education specialist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. “This is really exciting for our field. Especially in light of the evidence that many chronic diseases are leading to poor COVID-19 outcomes, the expansion of medical nutrition therapy is timely.”

Medical nutrition therapy (MNT) is an evidence-based therapeutic approach to treating certain chronic conditions through individually-tailored nutrition plans. Research shows MNT MNT is an essential component of preventing diabetes, managing existing diabetes, and preventing and slowing diabetes complications. The new legislation provides Medicare Part B coverage for MNT for:

nutrition therapy to Medicare beneficiaries. The bipartisan initiative, which was introduced by Representatives Eliot Engel (D) and Peter King (R) from New York, would allow Medicare beneficiaries to obtain treatment from registered dietitian nutritionists and other qualified nutrition experts for many common chronic diseases.

“Right now, Medicare part B only covers medical nutrition therapy for people with diabetes and renal disease. The new legislation would expand it to cover many other chronic diseases,” says Rachel Stahl, a registered dietitian at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. “This is really exciting for our field. Especially in light of the evidence that many chronic diseases are leading to poor COVID-19 outcomes, the expansion of medical nutrition therapy is timely.”

Medical nutrition therapy (MNT) is an evidence-based therapeutic approach to treating certain chronic conditions through individually-tailored nutrition plans. Research shows MNT is effective in reducing complications associated with certain chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes. The new legislation provides Medicare Part B coverage for MNT for:

  • prediabetes
  • obesity
  • hypertension
  • dyslipidemia
  • malnutrition
  • eating disorders
  • cancer
  • celiac disease
  • HIV/AIDS
  • any other disease or condition causing unintentional weight loss.

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The act also expands coverage for MNT to other diseases or conditions as determined medically necessary.

“The act also expands coverage for MNT to other diseases or conditions as determined medically necessary and also authorizes nurse practitioners, physician assistants, clinical nurse specialists, and psychologists to refer patients for MNT,” Stahl says.

About 90% of the nation’s $3.5 trillion in annual health care costs go to the treatment of people with chronic diseases and mental health conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. More than two-thirds of seniors receiving Medicare live with multiple chronic conditions. About one in five Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 years and over are affected by diabetes, and one in three Medicare beneficiaries are at risk for diabetes.

What happens during an MNT visit?

During MNT appointments, registered dietitians counsel patients on behavioral and lifestyle changes that will positively affect long-term eating habits and health. Each appointment includes a nutrition assessment, intervention, monitoring, and education — in which the dietitian evaluates the patient’s nutritional state and provides helpful information about how to make good food decisions. The dietitian can also help with menu planning using evidence-based nutrition practice guidelines.

Introduced in the House of Representatives in May, the Medical Nutrition Therapy Act of 2020 is making its way through Congress.

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