Anne Roberson walks a quarter-mile down the road each day to her mailbox in the farming town of Exeter, deep in California’s Central Valley. Her daily walk and housekeeping chores are her only exercise, and her weight has remained stubbornly over 200 pounds for some time now. Roberson is 68 years old, and she says it gets harder to lose weight as you get older: “You get to a certain point in your life and you say, ‘What’s the use?’ “
For older adults, being mildly overweight causes little harm, physicians say. But too much weight is especially hazardous for an aging body. Obesity increases inflammation, exacerbates bone and muscle loss and significantly raises the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
To help the nation’s 13 million obese seniors, the Affordable Care Act included a new Medicare benefit offering face-to-face weight loss counseling in primary care doctors’ offices. It is free for patients, with no copay. But while Medicare now pays doctors to counsel their obese patients, only 50,000 people participated in 2013, the latest year for which data is available.
“We think it’s the perfect storm of several factors,” says Dr. Scott Kahan, an obesity medicine specialist at George Washington University. Kahan says obese patients and doctors aren’t aware of the benefit, and doctors who want to intervene
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