Sixty Days for 3.10.21 — A prime-time look at the 2021 Legislative Session

Staff Reports

March 10, 2021

Lobby Up

While it has become widely acknowledged that obesity is an epidemic impacting Florida, addressing the disease has gained urgency amid the COVID-19 pandemic due to its effect on people with obesity.

More than 5.5 million Floridians live with obesity, which represents the strongest predictor for COVID-19 severity after age and may predispose people to catch the virus. 

Still, many Floridians, including seniors covered by Medicare, lack access to comprehensive obesity treatments.

The availability of FDA-approved obesity drugs, combined with multidisciplinary behavioral and nutritional care, has helped provide safe and effective nonsurgical care for those struggling with obesity.

In 2017, the Legislature directed the Department of Management Services to begin a weight management pilot program for state employees in Florida, including access to FDA-approved obesity drugs.

Reducing comorbidities also leads to savings — patients with obesity have medical costs 24% higher than people without obesity. 

With 4 years of the Florida pilot program almost complete and given the necessity of addressing obesity amid the pandemic, the attention has turned to make coverage of obesity treatments permanent for state employees. 

Federal legislation that would establish access to FDA-approved obesity drugs in the Medicare program has also been proposed.

Novo Nordisk wants to ensure patients in Florida — and nationwide — have access to the full continuum of care to treat obesity, including FDA-approved anti-obesity medications.

To help them in the fight against obesity in Florida, Novo Nordisk has hired the team at Johnston & Stewart Government Strategies, including Jeff Johnston, Amanda Stewart, and Anita Berry.

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