NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Medicare will now cover preventive services meant to reduce obesity, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said Tuesday.

Under the new coverage, all Medicare beneficiaries can receive a free obesity screening by their primary care providers. Those who screen positive, which is defined as having a body mass index greater than 30 kg, can receive one in-person counseling visit each week for one month and one in-person counseling visit every other week for an additional five months.

Medicare beneficiaries may also be eligible to receive one in-person counseling visit every month for an additional six months if they achieve a weight reduction of at least 6.6 pounds during the first six months of counseling.

CMS says the preventive service was added because obesity is associated with many chronic diseases that affect Medicare beneficiaries, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The CMS estimates that more than 30% of both men and women in the Medicare population are obese.

“Obesity is a challenge faced by Americans of all ages, and prevention is crucial for the management and elimination of obesity in our country,” CMS Administrator Donald M. Berwick said in a written statement.  “It’s important for Medicare patients to enjoy access to appropriate screening and preventive services.”

The added coverage is meant to complement the Million Hearts initiative led by CMS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which aims to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes during the next five years, in part by providing coverage for screenings and other preventive health care measures.

Medicare beneficiaries aren’t the only ones to see an increase in this type of coverage. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued new guidelines ensuring that women will receive birth control and other preventive care for free.

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