Medicaid may cover health services in SC, 8th most obese state

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - South Carolina is the 8th most obese state in the country, but the Palmetto State may have a plan to tackle this problem.

A new Medicaid proposal will allow the SC Department of Health and Human Services to expand its policy to cover obesity intervention. This includes nutritional counseling by a licensed dietitian.

According to the SCDHHS, "Licensed dietitians must have a referral from a physician which helps support balanced clinical and nutritional interventions."

Nutritional counseling can help the participant control their body mass index, or measure of body fat. 31.6 percent of South Carolinians are obese which means they have a BMI of 30 or higher. The healthy range is 18.5 to 24.9. More than 30 percent of Medicaid recipients fall in the overweight range and may not even be aware.

"Some people who's BMI is over 31 or 32, don't look overweight and they might not feel like they're overweight but medically they are because they have more body fat then they need for a healthy lifestyle," says Grand Strand Regional Medical Center Registered Dietitian Kelly Snow.

The state plan requires federal approval from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid services. If passed, physicians and dietitians, working with some Medicaid patients trying to loose weight, will be able to bill 6 visits, each, for obesity management. This could improve the health of the approximately 150,000 obese Medicaid recipients, or 30.8%.

"A lot of people don't start following a healthy lifestyle until it's almost too late, until they do end up in the hospital, and they already have diabetes or they already have heart disease. If they could have prevented that ahead of time then they wouldn't even be in the hospital," says Snow.

According to state data, if we don't address obesity, DHEC projects it to cost 5.3 billion dollars in 2018.

The cost of the program is estimated at $10.5 million yearly, but the SCDHHS expects 60-percent of eligible adults to get involved, saving money on healthcare in the long haul. Health officials say tackling obesity can lead to decreasing the likelihood of many chronic diseases including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even cancer.

For a rough estimate of your BMI, use the CDC "BMI calculator":

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