As Oklahoma's obesity rate continues to rise, a new clinic for obese children faces challenges of how it will pay for the services it provides.
“These types of clinics do not fund themselves,” said Dr. Ashley Weedn, the clinic's medical director and an OU Children's Physicians pediatrician. “Reimbursement is a real issue in any multidisciplinary clinic.”
In August, the Pediatric Exercising and Eating Responsibly Clinic opened inside The Children's Hospital in Oklahoma City.
When Weedn refers to “multidisciplinary,” she means the clinic provides multiple medical professionals who work with children who are obese.
When a child and family come to the clinic, they meet with a general pediatrician, a dietitian, a pediatric psychologist and a pediatric physical therapist. And although each of these professionals plays an important role in diagnosis and health planning, not all of them are covered by insurance, Weedn said.
Weedn said Medicaid has made improvements in what it will cover in the realm of obesity-related health care, but not all private insurers have caught up. If insurance doesn't cover the services, either the family will be left to pay or the clinic will consider covering the bill.
“We hope the private insurance companies will follow suit,” Weedn said. “We've been working with a couple of the private insurance companies to have that conversation with them, and they realize the importance.”
About 30 percent of Oklahoma's children are overweight or obese, according to the National Survey of Children's Health. Meanwhile, Oklahoma's adult obesity rate has nearly quadrupled since 1988, with more than 30 percent of adults in Oklahoma obese, according to the state Health Department.
The clinic staff anticipates serving about 100 new patients, with 230 visits occurring over the next year. Thus far, six children and their families have sought services at the clinic, an outpatient facility.
The focus is promoting better health among the patient and his or her family members, not who can lose weight the fastest. After family members meet with the medical staff, they together sign a contract that lays out what goals they want to accomplish.
“It's not us saying, ‘You need to stop drinking sugar sweetened beverages,'” Weedn said. “It's figuring out what they can do as a family, not just telling the patient what to do.”
Children ages 2 to 18 with a Body Mass Index greater than the 99th percentile or greater than the 95th percentile with another related disease or condition qualify for the clinic's services.The American Academy of Pediatrics Oklahoma chapter...