A Survey of Primary Care Practices on Their Use of the Intensive Behavioral Therapy for Obese Medicare Patients



To fill the gap in knowledge on systematic differences between primary care practices (PCP) that do or do not provide intensive behavioral therapy (IBT) for obese Medicare patients.


A mixed modality survey (paper and online) of primary care practices obtained from a random sample of Medicare databases and a convenience sample of practice-based research network practices.

Key Results

A total of 287 practices responded to the survey, including 140 (7.4% response rate) from the random sample and 147 (response rate not estimable) from the convenience sample. We found differences between the IBT-using and non-using practices in practice ownership, patient populations, and participation in Accountable Care Organizations. The non-IBT-using practices, though not billing for IBT, did offer some other assistance with obesity for their patients. Among those who had billed for IBT, but stopped billing, the most commonly cited reason was billing difficulties. Many providers experienced denied claims due to billing complexities.


Although the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services established payment codes for PCPs to deliver IBT for obesity in 2011, very few providers submitted fee-for-service claims for these services after almost 10 years. A survey completed by both a random and convenience sample of practices using and not using IBT for obesity payment codes revealed that billing for these services was problematic, and many providers that began using the codes discontinued using them over the past 7 years.

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Contributors: Other MOST study team members who contributed to the manuscript include Liang Wang (MSU) who created the Qualtrics questionnaire and Noelle Reimers (UC) who helped verifying practice addresses.


This study was supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, grant HS024843, PI (Holtrop).

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Correspondence to Zhehui Luo MS, PhD.

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Luo, Z., Gritz, M., Connelly, L. et al. A Survey of Primary Care Practices on Their Use of the Intensive Behavioral Therapy for Obese Medicare Patients. J GEN INTERN MED (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-021-06596-w

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  • obesity management
  • primary health care
  • delivery of health care
  • intensive behavioral therapy