Hoffner: Congress must act to address America’s obesity epidemic


Kyra Hoffner is a Democrat representing Dover.

There is no way around it — obesity has grown into a national health crisis of alarming proportions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 40% of American adults are categorized as obese. Obesity is a chronic disease with severe consequences; legislative action is needed now. Congress must pass the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act to allow Medicare to cover Food and Drug Administration-approved medications for weight management. Fighting the obesity epidemic is a bipartisan issue that reaches across the aisle, as it was reintroduced recently by Delaware’s own Democratic Sen. Tom Carper and Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican. Sen. Carper has led the introduction of the bill since 2013, and I thank him for continuing to be a champion for TROA.

Obesity is linked to numerous chronic diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer. Annual health care costs associated with obesity are more than $1.7 billion, which burdens the economy and society. As obesity rates continue to soar, we cannot afford to be complacent in addressing this pressing issue. Obesity is not a matter of personal choice; it is a multifactorial disease. Treatment for obesity and access to care for obesity should be as available and accessible as other recognized chronic diseases.

TROA is not a cookie-cutter approach to solving the obesity epidemic. This is good news for the diverse First State, as nearly 50% of Black and Latino Americans are living with obesity. As a result, they are also almost three times as likely to be hospitalized for severe cases of COVID-19 than White people. Additionally, given the bucolic character of a good portion of Delaware, another disparity comes into play — 34.2% of rural Americans live with obesity, compared to 28.7% of those who live in metropolitan cities. By updating Medicare Part D coverage to include FDA-approved anti-obesity medications and updating the intensive behavioral therapy benefit, the legislation would empower individuals from all walks of life to become healthier.

Combating obesity may increase productivity, and a healthier workforce will continue driving our economy forward. Studies show that our society could reap as much as $100 billion per year (or $1 trillion over 10 years) of social benefit through reduced health care spending and improved quality of life. Improving the health of Delawareans is an initiative that has always been close to my heart — I want all of us to be able to enjoy the natural beauty of our home. For that reason, I co-sponsored legislation ranging from concussion protection to lead-poisoning prevention this past legislative session. It is my hope that this sort of initiative can be taken writ large against obesity in the United States, and the passage of the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act would be a step in the right direction.

The time is now for Congress to pass this act. The comprehensive legislation offers hope for millions of Americans struggling with obesity and aims to pave the way toward a healthier future. It is time for our representatives to prioritize the health of the nation by supporting TROA and taking a proactive stance against the obesity epidemic. Together, let us stand in support of this measure and make a lasting impact on the health and well-being of generations to come. I urge our Delaware delegation to keep up the fight and pass the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act.

Reader reactions, pro or con, are welcomed at civiltalk@iniusa.org.

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