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Nutrition in Health Care Reform

By Megan Tempest in Food on Dec 22, 2009 5:00PM

The role of nutrition in the treatment and prevention of chronic disease is undeniable. During the 2008 presidential debates Barack Obama emphasized this fact. He urged the nation to save money by “paying for a dietitian for people to lose weight, as opposed to paying for the $30,000 foot amputation.” The American Institute of Cancer Research pinpoints healthy weight, physical activity, and diet as the best protection against cancer. Likewise, the American Heart Association preaches diet and lifestyle as the two crucial elements to preventing cardiovascular disease.

This week the Senate health care reform bill, having endured multiple negotiations, surged towards final approval. Although the final version is yet unknown, the most recent version of the bill included language for preventive health care, including new and expanded preventive services by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid and the inclusion of the dietitian as part of the medical home. The American Medical Association, traditionally opposed to health care reform, announced the Senate bill will improve choice and access to affordable health insurance coverage, and "The bill will increase coverage for preventive and wellness care that can lead to better disease prevention and management.”

In January, the conference committee will begin the work of merging the house and senate bills into a final draft. Whatever shape the final health care reform legislation takes, preventive health services, including nutrition counseling, must remain in the final bill. View a side by side comparison of the Senate and House bill here.