“Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans,” said AMA board member Patrice Harris, M.D. in a statement.
More than 78 million adults in the United States are now obese according to eh Centers for Disease Control (CDC). And the number of children who are obese has doubled in children—and tripled in adolescents—over the last thirty years. People who are obese face higher medical bills, about 1400 dollars more than patients who are of normal weight.
The World Health Organization says obesity is associated with a host of serious illnesses, including cardiovascular disease and stroke, diabetes, osteoarthritis and some types of cancers.
Dr. Harris told Fox News obesity costs the U.S. over 535 billion dollars a year.
Theodore Kyle, with the Obesity Society, a research group, applauded the AMA’s decision saying it will help “reduce the stigma and discrimination experienced by the millions affected.” The Obesity Society first advocated for the change in 2008.
The new classification from the AMA comes less than a year after a report, F as in Fat predicted more than 13 states could have obesity rates as high as 60 percent by the year 2030. The report, by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America’s Health, predicated all 50 states could have obesity rates above 44 percent by that time.
While the AMA ruling has no legal standing, health insurance companies are likely to feel pressure to cover the cost of doctor’s consultation with obese patients and weight loss programs. The government-run Medicare program does cover the costs of some treatments but private insurers are less consistent, according to the LA Times. The Internal Revenue Service allows tax deductions for obesity treatment, according to Medical Daily.
A person is considered obese, according to WedMD, when his or her weight is more than 20 percent higher than normal or she or he has a body mass index (BMI) of over 30. BMI is a combined height and weight measurement. The normal range is 18.5 to 24.9. People with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 are considered overweight but not obese.