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Senators Hassan and Murkowski Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Improve Access to Eating Disorder Care for Seniors and People with Disabilities

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) reintroduced a bipartisan bill to better support seniors and people who experience disabilities who are struggling with eating disorders. The bipartisan Nutrition CARE Act would expand access to medical care for Medicare beneficiaries with eating disorders by including coverage of outpatient medical nutrition therapy through Medicare Part B, which will provide patients with a more comprehensive, specialized approach to combating eating disorders than what is currently offered under Medicare.

“Eating disorders can affect all Americans, including older people and individuals who experience disabilities. For these groups especially, an eating disorder can be life threatening, and it is critical that people on Medicare with an eating disorder can get the full help that they need,” said Senator Hassan.

“Eating disorders are dangerous illnesses that harm the health of millions of Americans, regardless of their age or background. The bipartisan Nutrition CARE Act would help ensure that seniors and people living with disabilities who struggle with eating disorders have increased access to medical nutrition therapy—an effort that would make a difference in Alaska, where we face a shortage of treatment options. Together, we can support people who struggle with eating disorders, destigmatize the illness among older people, and improve the health of seniors and people living with disabilities,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski.

“The EDC is proud to continue our work in championing the Nutrition CARE Act," said Christine Peat, PhD. Eating Disorders Coalition Board of Directors President, Director, National Center of Excellence on Eating Disorders, and Associate Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. "For too long, Medicare beneficiaries with eating disorders have forgone a core component of treatment or been forced to pay out of pocket. Passage of this legislation would ensure access to the full suite of services necessary for eating disorder recovery, and we are committed to seeing it through.” 

“The Nutrition CARE Act will ensure that elders and people with disabilities battling eating disorders will at long last have access to the final component of eating disorder treatment services that they have always needed to reach meaningful recovery,” said Monika Ostroff LICSW, CEDS-S, Executive Director, Multi-Service Eating Disorder Association (MEDA) and New Hampshire resident. “As a former Medicare recipient, I can say that lack of access to nutrition services certainly made my own quest for recovery from an eating disorder much more difficult than it needed to be.”

The bipartisan Nutrition CARE Act would allow registered physicians, dieticians, nutrition specialists, and mental health professionals to provide medical nutrition therapy services to Medicare beneficiaries. Currently, Medicare beneficiaries struggling with an eating disorder can access psychiatric, therapy, and medical services. The expanded services would include 13 hours of medical nutrition therapy—including a one hour initial assessment and 12 hours of reassessment and intervention—during the first year that the beneficiary begins receiving services. The beneficiary would then be able to access four hours of medical nutrition therapy services during each subsequent year.