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June 06, 2024

By Akeia Blue

Media Contact
Akeia Blue

National Minority Quality Forum Educates Congressional Staffers on the Importance of Providing Medicare Access to Anti-Obesity Medications

Hill briefing brings together healthcare experts to urge policymakers to take action.

Washington, D.C. (June 6, 2024) — The National Minority Quality Forum (NMQF) hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill for Congressional Staffers about the importance of providing access to anti-obesity medications for Medicare beneficiaries in support of the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act (TROA) which is being moved through Congress. The briefing was opened with an address by Congresswoman Gwen Moore, (D-WI 4th District) and a data presentation from Kelelaye Emiru, MBA, Vice President, Center for Health Information Strategies and Services, NMQF. The panel discussion was moderated by Akeia Blue, MPH, MS, President, Center for Sustainable Health Care Quality & Equity, NMQF and included Ray Serrano, PhD, MPH,  Director of Research and Policy, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Elena Rios, MD, MSPH, MACP, President, National Hispanic Health Foundation and Debra Fraser-Howze, Founder & Board Chair, Choose Healthy Life.

Obesity continues to be a major concern for the American population, with nearly half of adults living with it. The prevalence of obesity is highest among populations of color, specifically Black and Hispanic communities. Although obesity was declared a disease in 2013, treatment for it remains a challenge, with the burden often being put on patients to overcome it on their own, without consideration for how factors like social determinants of health can impact their weight loss success. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll released in May 2024, nearly 40 percent of adults ages 65 and older have been told they are overweight or obese in the past five years. 

Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) medications have recently become popular for the treatment of obesity and have proven to be efficacious in reducing obesity and improving outcomes for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. While the success of this class of drugs has been noted, they are also expensive and financially out of reach for many of the people who need them most. Currently, Medicare does not cover this class of drugs for weight loss, leaving adults 65 plus without access to them. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation poll, only about one percent of Medicare beneficiaries use GLP-1s for weight loss, likely due to them being cost prohibitive.

“Obesity is a challenge that can be overcome. There are promising treatments available that can benefit people of color and help to reduce the disparities we see in obesity and other obesity related conditions,” said Dr. Gary Puckrein, President and CEO of National Minority Quality Forum. “We are hopeful that Congress will work to provide access to these treatments for Medicare beneficiaries, who have paid into the system for their entire careers, while trusting that it would provide them with the appropriate coverage needed to give them the opportunity to live healthy lives.” 

The briefing was meant to educate Hill staffers with knowledge and personal stories that they can share with Congressmembers to inform their position on TROA. This legislation, if passed, will expand Medicare Part D coverage to include the costs of anti-obesity medications and obesity specialists. Congresswoman Moore and the panelists all shared their personal stories and experiences with obesity and access to appropriate treatment, while also including relevant data points to support the need for this legislation. 

“I am proud to be a co-sponsor of TROA and to work to improve access to obesity treatment and care for those who need it,” said Congresswoman Gwen Moore, (D-WI 4th District). “Hearing from experts who are engaged in the community and who can speak to the community’s needs is helpful in getting my fellow colleagues engaged in this conversation. I am grateful to the National Minority Quality Forum for convening this discussion and to all of the panelists and participants for lifting up this issue.”

About National Minority Quality Forum

The National Minority Quality Forum (NMQF) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit research and advocacy organization based in Washington, DC. The mission of NMQF is to reduce patient risk by assuring optimal care for all. NMQF’s vision is an American health services research, delivery and financing system whose operating principle is to reduce patient risk for amenable morbidity and mortality while improving quality of life. For more information, please visit