NOTeD Interviews Experts from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Tom Rifai, MD, FACP
In this exceptional episode of NOTeD, we welcome a very special guest co-host, True Health Initiative Board Member Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RDN, LD. Kathleen and NOTeD Editor Dr. Tom Rifai interview two special guests, Marsha Schofield and Hannah Martin, who are both Registered Dietitian Nutritionists with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This engaging discussion focuses in part on the current legislative advocacy regarding nutrition counseling.
Zoom call 4 panels with the 2 interviewers and 2 interviewees

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (the Academy) advocates to improve patient insurance coverage for Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (known as RDs or RDNs). The Academy has been collaborating with a dedicated bipartisan group of senators and representatives on a current bill in Congress called the Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) Act of 2021. The new bill includes a handful of measures such as expanding Medicare coverage for RDN MNT counseling beyond the current parameters, which only cover chronic kidney disease and diabetes mellitus.

Nearly all Medicare recipients have one chronic disease, and more than two-thirds of this demographic have multiple lifestyle and nutrition-driven chronic disease, including hypertension, coronary artery disease, prediabetes, obesity and cancer.

There is a direct link between lifestyle and health in this work, and THI knows it is important to provide credible information from some of the top leaders who are helping to facilitate better coverage in this space. With that said, our discussion with Marsha and Hannah went beyond Medicare.

Does Insurance Cover Nutrition Counseling?

Our guests did an excellent job of explaining some of the relevant issues in this framework, as well as provided a bit of myth busting. For instance, there is a significant amount of RDN coverage in the non-Medicare, private framework and Medicaid insurance worlds. And there is growing influence on private insurers thanks to the Affordable Care Act requiring insurers to cover any service recommended at Grade A or B by the United States Preventive Services Task Force.

We also discussed the ability to influence dietitian coverage beyond Medicare, including investigating whether your company is self-insured, what that means and why it is important. While your insurance card may have the name of a well-known health insurance provider, that provider may simply be administering the specific plan for your employer. If that is the case, Marsha and Hannah pointed out that speaking to your company’s Human Resources (HR) department might be quite helpful to influence what services might be covered in any following year.

Last but not least, this episode’s guests have provided resources, linked to below, on how to help facilitate change, from supporting federal or state legislation by calling your elected officials or simply finding a dietitian. While we work together to expand RDN coverage and access, in the meantime, it may be well worth the investment in your health to work with the expertise of a registered dietitian nutritionist.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics List of Resources

  1. Here is the link to the public action alert where anyone (in the US) can send a pre-drafted message to their Members of Congress requesting their support for the Medical Nutrition Therapy Act.
  2. Find a Nutrition Expert: This link brings you to the landing page of the Academy’s consumer website, so it is used as exposure to all the information/resources they have available for consumers. You’ll even see the link to the video, What an RDN can do for you. But if you want a more direct link, you can use these two: Find a Nutrition Expert, direct page  and 10 Reasons to Visit an RDN.
  3. Here’s a consumer article on how to determine your existing coverage.
  4. Stakeholder flyers (set of 7): These materials help carry the message to specific stakeholder groups (you don’t have to be an Academy member to access these materials).
  5. We didn’t discuss this in the interview, but in the spirit of supporting primary care provider/RDN partnerships, the Academy offers this Referrals and Primary Care Partnership page with resources.

Enjoy this very informative video and be sure to contact your Senators and Representatives to verbalize your support for the Medical Nutrition Therapy Act.