Saud Anwar

State Senator

Saud Anwar

Deputy President Pro Tempore

Working For You

March 10, 2022

Human Services Committee Holds Public Hearing on Medicaid, Husky assistance for Treatment of Obesity

Today, the Human Services Committee heard legislation concerning adding medical assistance with treatment of severe obesity to Medicaid and HUSKY B beneficiaries, aiming to improve the health outcomes of individuals experiencing these conditions and limiting the effects of treatment on the medical industry. State Senator Saud Anwar (D-South Windsor) strongly supports the legislation, which he helped introduce in this legislative session.

“The health outcomes of a patient experiencing extreme obesity can be very negative, causing potential lifelong conditions and even reducing their quality of life or lifespan,” said Sen. Anwar. “With many societal problems that can contribute to weight gain and development of obesity, including food deserts in major cities and lack of nutritional education, as well as medical diagnoses that can lead to similar circumstances, we should treat obesity as a societal concern. Providing means for patients on Medicaid and HUSKY B to access surgical and prescription medical aid for these conditions can have a positive effect not only on their own health, but reduce the strain on health systems caused by treating serious complications of obesity that can develop over time. When we have the opportunities and the resources to prevent these outcomes, we should put standards in place to do so.”

Senate Bill 282, “An Act Concerning Medical Assistance For Bariatric Surgery and Prescription Drug Treatment of Obesity,” would see the Commissioner of Social Services provide medical assistance for bariatric surgery for Medicaid and HUSKY B beneficiaries with severe obesity and prescription drug treatment of individuals considered obese with body mass indexes greater than 35, assuming those beneficiaries meet other conditions set for those treatments. Under the legislation, severe obesity is considered a body mass index greater than forty (a six-foot tall man weighing more than 300 pounds or a woman standing at 5 feet 3 inches with a weight over 225 pounds, for instance). It also considers a body mass index greater than 35 if an individual has been diagnosed with a related comorbidity such as diabetes, hypertension or sleep apnea.

In testimony submitted to the Committee, medical professionals largely approved of the legislation. Jonathan Aranow, MD, former president of the Connecticut Chapters of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, testified that, over a period of time, the bill would generate more cost savings than expenditures within five years of passage, potentially saving the state $12 million annually in health care spending. Melissa Mitri, president of the Connecticut Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, noted that the legislation focuses on patients with significantly increased risk of chronic diseases related to obesity and that the legislation would increase access to treatment for the state’s most vulnerable populations.

Pavlos Papasavas, MD, immediate past president of the CCASMBS, said that obesity disproportionately affects minorities, and that 13.4% of children in Connecticut are obese. He noted that 50.8% of patients who received a COVID-19 diagnosis in early waves of the pandemic who visited emergency departments or were admitted to departments were obese, another negative health consequence of the condition, which is considered a comorbidity increasing the risk of severe COVID-19 complications. What’s more, he added, Connecticut is the only state in New England with Affordable Care Act plans not covering bariatric surgery; such an action would benefit the state through cost savings and humanitarian support.