If Health Plans Limit Bariatric Surgery, Are Lives at Risk?
Among the top ten papers to be presented in the ASMBS portion of ObesityWeek 2016 on Wednesday is a case-control study of long-term mortality after bariatric surgery. We expect no big surprises in this study, just another set of compelling data affirming the survival benefit conferred by bariatric surgery documented in the landmark Swedish Obese Subjects Study in 2007. Evidence continues to accumulate for a survival benefit after bariatric surgery and we wonder: are health plans putting lives at risk when they limit access to surgery?
These new data come from Geisinger, a rural Pennsylvania health system noted for its medical home model of care. Geisinger was an early adopter of electronic medical records, making it a good source for complete patient data surveillance. Michelle Lent will present these data on Wednesday at 2:45.
Earlier this year, Eleisha Flanagan and colleagues examined the survival of bariatric surgery candidates delayed or denied care by health insurance. They concluded:
Access to bariatric surgical care was impeded by insurance certification processes in 22 per cent of medically acceptable candidates. Processes that delay or restrict efficient access to bariatric surgery are associated with a 3-fold mortality increase.
So, as we look forward to hearing more evidence about the benefits of bariatric surgery – longer lives, type 2 diabetes in remission – we cannot comprehend this one thing: how do medical directors at health plans justify continuing to frustrate patients seeking this vital care for obesity?
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November 1, 2016