SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, Assemblymember Damon Connolly (D-San Rafael) introduced Assembly Bill (AB) 620, which would require health plans to cover medical nutrition therapy. Medical nutrition therapy can be a successful alternative to medication treatment for several diseases, including Crohn’s disease. This therapy has substantial benefits for pediatric patients (children) because they may not have access to, or may not be able to use, certain medications. Additionally, patients with Intestinal Bowel Disease (IBD) can utilize medically necessary foods for nutritional support and to help them achieve remission.
“Early treatment options for metabolic and digestive diseases like Crohn’s, have proven to reduce harm and increase quality of life,” said Assemblymember Connolly. “There is no reason why Californians suffering from chronic illnesses cannot lead full and productive lives. AB 620 provides patients with a proven successful alternative to certain medications, which healthcare providers may recommend when complications such as weight loss, surgery, obstruction, or severe inflammation, prevent patients from getting the right nutrients.”
“As a pediatric gastroenterologist, I regularly see the very real urgency to address the needs of patients with GI and metabolic disorders for which medically necessary food or formula is an essential treatment or adjunct,” said Tolulope Falaiye, MD, MSCI, Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Colorado – Colorado Springs. “The cost of these medically necessary foods or formulas can be prohibitive. In some cases, formula or medical food is the only option. Medical food and/or formula are the only side effect free option for therapy. They can be essential for healing and treatment.”
Exclusive enteral nutrition (EEN) as a means to induce remission is safer, improves growth, and encourages healing in children over steroid therapy. Enteral nutrition, or EN, is a way to give the patient’s body what it needs to stay healthy. “Enteral” means passing through the intestines when nutrition is taken either orally or through a feeding tube. Enteral nutrition is usually taken in the form of a nutrient-rich formula. Some common formulas include Boost, Ensure, and Orgain. Inherited metabolic disorders and digestive diseases including IBD, affects millions of Americans, with as many as 70,000 new cases of IBD diagnosed each year. AB 620 will allow Californians suffering from these disorders to have greater access to nutritional support, in addition to medication, by expanding health insurance coverage to “medically necessary foods,” which have proven to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.
AB 620 now resides in the Assembly Rules Committee, awaiting referral to its first policy committee.
Assemblymember Connolly represents the entirety of Marin County and Southern Sonoma County