RD667 - Obesity and Eating Disorders Prevention and Treatment in Virginia
Obesity Policy Options and Findings
FINDINGS IN BRIEF
Coverage of obesity prevention and early intervention services varies by insurer
Virginia Medicaid currently covers preventive services for children and adults, including physical exams and nutrition counseling. Two Medicaid MCOs piloted an evidence-based prevention program, the Diabetes Prevention Program, that successfully targets people who are at high risk for type 2 diabetes by promoting a change in lifestyle factors for modest weight loss. The program could benefit people with obesity; however, this program is not currently a covered Medicaid benefit. The Virginia EHB benchmark plan covers counseling services related to nutrition as a preventive health benefit but does not cover behavioral interventions for obesity. Some individual and small group plans also exclude medical nutrition therapy as a treatment for obesity.
Weight loss medications are not covered in the Virginia Essential Health Benefits benchmark plan and allowed under strict criteria for Medicaid
The Virginia EHB benchmark plan outlines services which must be covered by individual and small group plans. Also, the Virginia EHB benchmark plan specifically excludes coverage for weight loss drugs. Consequently, there are no individual or small group plans that cover these services. Medicaid requires prior authorization for weight loss drugs.
Weight loss surgery is not covered in the Virginia Essential Health Benefits benchmark plan and allowed under strict criteria for Medicaid
The Virginia EHB benchmark plan specifically excludes coverage for weight loss surgery, which is similar to most states. Twenty-three states cover bariatric surgery through their state EHB benchmark. Coverage is limited in the individual and small group market. Virginia Medicaid covers bariatric surgery when medically necessary.
There are 6 policy options in the report for Member consideration. Below are highlighted options to address obesity services.
Option: Direct DMAS to develop a plan to incorporate the National Diabetes Prevention Program as a covered service within the Medicaid State Plan. (Option 1, page 8)
Option: Request HIRC and BOI to define nutritional counseling in the EHB benchmark plan. (Option 2, page 10)
Option: Request HIRC and BOI conduct assessments to include the following services in the Essential Health Benefits benchmark plan when medically necessary:
• Medical nutrition therapy
Option: Direct DMAS to remove service limits for medical nutrition therapy when treating qualifying or eligible medical conditions. (Option 4, page 11)
Eating Disorder Policy Options and Findings
FINDINGS IN BRIEF
Limited reimbursement and coverage of eating disorder services are major barriers to treatment
Eating disorder treatment providers reported unsustainably low reimbursement rates and difficult rate negotiations with commercial insurance companies. Medicaid does generally cover some eating disorder treatment, but there is not an established rate for eating disorder services. Providers can participate in single-case agreements with Medicaid to provide services, when possible.
Lack of alignment in prior and continued authorization requirements and medical necessity among insurers can create administrative barriers and delay care
Eating disorder treatment usually requires prior authorization based on an insurer’s medical necessity criteria before services will be covered. Insurers can use discretion on what clinical guidelines they use to authorize services, resulting in differences in eating disorder treatment coverage across plans and carriers. Additionally, insurers often require continued stay authorization and can deny coverage if the patient no longer meets their medical necessity criteria. However, when the insurer fails to provide their definition of medical necessity, providers find it challenging to justify ongoing treatment.
Methods to ensure compliance with federal and state mental health parity laws continue to evolve
Non-quantitative treatment limitations (e.g., prior authorization requirements) may not indicate a mental health parity violation, but current state processes for oversight and enforcement of parity may not effectively identify and reduce barriers to mental health treatment. Some states have updated their mental health parity laws to increase transparency and ensure behavioral health services are covered to the same extent as medical surgical benefits.
POLICY OPTIONS IN BRIEF
There are 2 policy options in the report for Member consideration.
Below are highlighted options to address eating disorder services.
Option: Direct DMAS to conduct a rate study to develop reimbursement rates for residential, partial hospitalization, and intensive outpatient services for eating disorder services for adults over 21. (Option 7, page 27)
Option: Require all Medicaid MCOs and state-regulated health insurers to remove prior authorization for eating disorder services. (Option 8, page 29)