Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), the Chairman of the Aging Committee, and U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) introduced bipartisan legislation to expand Medicare beneficiaries’ access to Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT), which is a cost-effective component of treatment for obesity, diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and other chronic conditions.
The Medical Nutrition Therapy Act of 2020 would expand Medicare Part B coverage of outpatient medical nutrition therapy services to a number of currently uncovered diseases or conditions—including prediabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, malnutrition, eating disorders, cancer, celiac disease, and HIV/AIDS. Currently, Medicare Part B only covers outpatient MNT for diabetes, renal disease, and post-kidney transplant. The legislation would also allow more types of providers—including nurse practitioners, physician assistants, clinical nurse specialists, and psychologists—to refer patients to MNT.
“At a time when we are seeing many diet-related chronic conditions contribute to poor COVID-19 outcomes, Medical Nutrition Therapy should be part of the strategy to improve disease management and prevention for America’s seniors,” said Senator Collins. “I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation to expand Medicare beneficiaries’ access to Medical Nutrition Therapy. Our bipartisan bill would support patients, improve health outcomes, and reduce unnecessary health care costs.”
“Taking steps to strengthen preventive care for diabetes and other chronic conditions could help at-risk individuals live longer and healthier lives,” said Senator Peters. “I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation with Senator Collins that would lower Medicare costs, while expanding access to critical medical services for Michiganders and millions of Americans.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, seniors with diet-related conditions are suffering more than any other population in terms of the worst health outcomes, including death. Data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in June confirmed elevated risk for seniors with underlying health conditions. Among those hospitalized with COVID-19, 79 percent of patients had hypertension, 60 percent had hyperlipidemia, and 50 percent of patients either presented with chronic kidney disease or diabetes. Tragically, of those hospitalized, 28 percent were never able to leave the hospital because they passed away.
The Medical Nutrition Therapy Act of 2020 is supported by more than 30 national organizations, including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Diabetes Association, the Endocrine Society, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, and the National Kidney Foundation. The legislation has also been supported by the Maine Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Michigan Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“The Maine Academy commends Senator Collins for championing seniors’ health by providing access to medical nutrition therapy services,” said registered dietitian nutritionist and Maine Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics President Kristine Kittridge. “With more seniors per capita than any other state, this bipartisan legislation will be particularly impactful for Mainers. And the expanded list of providers who can refer their patients for MNT is essential for rural areas with physician shortages.”
“On behalf Michigan dietitians, thank you to Senator Peters for continuing to support the expansion of medical nutrition therapy in Medicare,” said registered dietitian nutritionist and Michigan Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics President Laura Kull. “Equitable access to medical nutrition therapy for all seniors is critical to combatting chronic disease disparities. These long-standing disparities have contributed to a disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color in Michigan, and access to nutrition care is part of the solution.”
“Medical nutrition therapy provided by a registered dietitian nutritionist is vital to the prevention, treatment and management of chronic diseases such as diabetes and obesity, and it has the potential to improve quality of life and reduce health-related costs,” said registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics President Linda T. Farr. “With the recent evidence that many diet-related chronic conditions are contributing to poor COVID-19 outcomes, the introduction of the Medical Nutrition Therapy Act is especially timely.”
Click HERE to read the bill text.