Health coaches get Obamacare bump

  • By Marni Jameson The Orlando Sentinel
  • Monday, January 6, 2014 1:39pm
  • Life

ORLANDO, Fla. — Like many working moms, advertising executive Regina Camplin put work and family ahead of personal wellness.

“After I had my second child, work was crazy breakneck,” said the 38-year-old mother of two daughters, ages 4 and 5.

That changed two years ago when the Oviedo, Fla., woman started working with certified health coach Nicole Copare, who helped Camplin lose weight, get stronger and find some balance in her life.

A relatively new profession, health coaches are part weight-loss counselor, part personal trainer and part motivational expert. The field is growing rapidly thanks to a big boost from the new health-care law.

Obamacare now requires private insurance companies to cover “intensive behavioral counseling for obesity” for adults.

That coverage has to be without any co-pay from patients. Medicare already covers obesity counseling for Americans older than 65.

Sessions with a certified health coach would qualify. The American Council on Exercise, the accrediting agency best known for certifying personal trainers, began offering health-coach certifications in October 2012.

Since then it has become “the fastest growing certification we have ever seen,” said Cedric Bryant, chief science officer for ACE.

Coaches differ from personal trainers in key ways, he said. Personal trainers focus on helping individuals with their exercise and physical activity. They conduct fitness assessments, then design exercise programs.

Health coaches take a more holistic view and factor in what else is going on in clients’ lives, including work, family, stress levels and diet.

“Nicole takes it beyond how much do I weigh and how far can I run, to, if I don’t feel right, asking me what’s changed in my life,” Camplin said.

Since she began working out with Copare, Camplin has lost “at least 20 pounds,” but more important to her is what she’s gained. “I found a way to fit it all in.”

The working mom pays $40 out of pocket for each 30-minute session, which she attends two to three times a week. “I have to invest in lifestyle changes, otherwise I won’t get results,” she said.

As more Americans become insured as a result of the Affordable Care Act, more will see primary-care doctors, who are already in short supply.

“I am one physician with 5,000 patients in my practice,” said Dr. Steven McCarus, a gynecologist for Florida Hospital for Women at Winter Park Memorial Hospital, who relies on a health coach to do what he doesn’t have time for.

Having a health coach helps doctors provide support for patients who need help dealing with chronic diseases, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and obesity, said Bridgette Jameson, a certified health coach who started working for a family doctor at Batson Family Health and Wellness in Longwood, Fla., last January.

Non-Medicare patients pay $25 for a 30-minute session. That’s likely to change next year for some patients when the new law will require health insurance plans to provide more coverage, she said.

Choosing a coach

Health coaches are gaining popularity so fast that knowing the good ones from the fakes is tricky. Some tips:

•Be sure the coach has a credential from a reputable certifying agency, said Bryant of the American Council on Exercise.

Ask what training and experience the coach has. A college degree in a fitness or nutrition-related field would add credibility.

Talk to some of the coach’s clients.

Be sure the coach is a personality match for you.

Get a referral from a health provider, said Florida gynecologist McCarus.

Beware of any coach promoting a product, like a nutrition supplement, or a trendy or extreme plan,” Bryant said. Consider that a red flag.

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