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Even Though It’s Free

Medicare Weight-Loss Program Going Unused

Smoking and obesity are the two main causes of preventable death in the U.S., and Medicare offers free counseling to seniors for both smoking cessation and weight-loss, but the response of seniors has been strikingly inconsistent. Although only nine percent of seniors are smokers, while 30 percent are obese, five times as many eligible seniors utilized the tobacco counseling service last year as they did the free weight-loss counseling, by a margin of 250,000 to 50,000. Officials estimate that fewer than one in every 30 Medicare beneficiaries who are obese and whose health could be improved by the counseling service actually take advantage of it, and cite poor promotion of the program, limited numbers of providers, and inconvenient counseling availabilities as reasons.

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