Pay & Benefits Watch Pay & Benefits WatchPay & Benefits Watch
Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.

Obese Feds Can Now Have Their Diet Pills Covered


The best means to achieving weight loss is through diet and exercise.

So says the Office of Personnel Management and, well, everyone.

OPM has acknowledged there are other means to shed the pounds, however, including through the use of “drug therapy.” Several anti-obesity medications are approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and OPM said in 2015 providers on the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program cannot exclude coverage of them on the basis of lifestyle or cosmetics.

“We want to clarify that excluding weight loss drugs from FEHB coverage on the basis that obesity is a ‘lifestyle’ condition and not a medical one or that obesity treatment is ‘cosmetic’-- is not permissible,” OPM wrote in a March letter to carriers.

The human resources agency implored providers to take care to ensure their enrollees are using the drugs appropriately, as weight loss pills “may be subject to abuse and misuse.” Consumption of weight loss drugs should always accompany the “mainstays” of diet and physical activity, OPM said.

OPM noted the Veterans Affairs Department’s VA MOVE! program as a model. That program requires employees to participate in a diet and behavior modification plan before qualifying for pills.

More Convenient Weight Loss Surgery

Last year, OPM set strict guidelines for when federal employees qualified for bariatric -- or weight loss -- surgery, including a certain threshold of body-mass index.

This year, OPM told carriers to make it easier to get procedures such as gastric band or bypass surgery. In conjunction with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services no longer requiring bariatric surgery procedures be performed at certain pre-approved facilities, OPM said FEHBP carriers should consider referring enrollees to more convenient locations.

OPM still encouraged surgeries to be performed at designated facilities, however, and told providers they could reduce enrollees’ cost share or provide them travel reimbursement if they opt for a procedure at a “center of excellence.”

Air Force Retirement Mixup

Some Air Force employees received mixed messages in the past few days.

The military service recently offered early retirement incentives to employees as part of an ongoing effort to reduce the branch's footprint. The Air Force has approved more than 3,000 retirement applications in the current window.

A select group of those approved for retirement -- fewer than 20 individuals, the Air Force said -- were later told their application was accepted in error and the early retirement was revoked.

However, after an outcry from the group -- including a petition to the White House -- the Air Force decided to make good on all of its acceptances.

An additional 2,500 airmen have accepted voluntary separation pay. Eligible personnel have until May 1 to accept that offer. 

Clarification: This story has been changed to clarify that FEHBP plans do not have to cover diet pills, but they cannot use lifestyle or cosmetics as reasons to deny coverage. 

(Image via atm2003/

Eric Katz joined Government Executive in the summer of 2012 after graduating from The George Washington University, where he studied journalism and political science. He has written for his college newspaper and an online political news website and worked in a public affairs office for the Navy’s Military Sealift Command. Most recently, he worked for Financial Times, where he reported on national politics.

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.