WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to improve access to care for seniors and people living with disabilities who struggle with eating disorders. Representative Judy Chu (CA-27) introduced a companion bill today in the House of Representatives.
While not often discussed, according to estimates, eating disorders affect 3-4 percent of the senior population. Eating disorders also affect 6 percent of females and 3 percent of males who experience disabilities. 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.
“Despite the perception that this is just a young person’s problem, older Americans struggle with eating disorders in significant numbers,” Senator Hassan said. “For seniors and people who experience disabilities, eating disorders can pose a serious threat to their health by complicating existing health concerns that can become life-threatening. The bipartisan Nutrition CARE Act will help expand access to comprehensive nutritional therapy for Granite Staters and Americans who rely on Medicare and help them lead healthy lives. This is an important step to help older Americans receive the health care that they need and I urge my colleagues to join us in supporting this bipartisan legislation.”
“Recent studies show that over 30 million Americans experience a clinically significant eating disorder during their lifetime,” Senator Murkowski said. “These complex mental illnesses can have a devastating impact on individuals of all genders and ages. The Nutrition CARE Act will help improve access to treatment for those impacted by eating disorders by allowing registered physicians, dieticians, nutrition specialists, and mental health professionals to provide medical nutrition therapy services to Medicare beneficiaries. Particularly for a state like Alaska, which is sorely lacking in resources to treat eating disorders, expanding access to this type of care is significant.”
“It is important to remember that eating disorders can impact anyone at any age, including our seniors,” Senator Capito said. “This legislation would ensure all of those struggling with eating disorders can receive the proper, targeted treatment they need to address the challenges they are facing.”
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 only 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.
Read the text of the legislation here.