Monday, July 2, 2007

Does your insurance company cover nutritional counseling?

If your cancer center does not yet have a Registered Dietitian(s) (RD) on staff as part of the team of oncology professionals providing your comprehensive cancer care, check to see if your insurance company is now including nutrition counseling sessions as part of your coverage. Here is an example of one company that has seen the light and is leading the way!
Independence Blue Cross, the Philadelphia region's largest health insurer, will begin providing its members up to six nutrition counseling visits per year starting July 1. The new benefit, free to most members, is designed to complement IBC's other programs focused on encouraging healthy lifestyles, including cash reimbursements for consistency with fitness and weight-loss programs.

"We are dedicated to helping our members lead healthier lives," said Joseph A. Frick, IBC's president and CEO. "Since obesity is both preventable and treatable, we at IBC want to proactively educate the community about its risks."

Dr. I. Steven Udvarhelyi, IBC's senior vice president and chief medical officer, noted that being overweight increases the risk of many chronic diseases including hypertension, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea and some cancers.

Beginning July 1, adults and children covered through IBC's Personal Choice and Keystone Health Plan East HMO and point-of-service products will have access to six nutrition counseling visits per year with their physician or a registered dietitian. There are no out-of-pocket costs to members when the services are provided by in-network providers. However, a referral for nutrition counseling is required for HMO members. Deductible and coinsurance cost sharing will apply for visits to an out-of-network provider and for self-referred visits by point-of-service members.

I recommend that you call your health insurance provider to ask when they will be providing this level of preventive care for nutrition. Some companies will provide 1 or 2 visits/year with an RD, which is not adequate to evaluate a person's nutritional needs, rank priorities, work with the patient to determine which behaviors need changes, develop a plan, provide the information and motivation to implement the plan, reassess a patient's progress (or lack) and needs, continue counseling and cheerleading, communicating with the patient's other medical team members as necessary, etc, etc. You get the picture that 1-2 visits per year is like throwing one bucket of water on a fire that has been smoldering if not raging for years!

I LOVE seeing progress like this that really gives some strength to the FRESH START data (see previous post today). It's one thing for me to be saying that people will benefit from individualized nutritional counseling, but to both have published data in hand and the means to actually help people put this into practice by having access to multiple visits with an RD are two huge steps forward. :-)

Signing off to work in the garden,
Diana Dyer, MS, RD


Anonymous said...

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Gillian V RD

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing this.