The Genius of Connecticut

Access to Obesity Care in Connecticut

Neil Floch, AuthorRoughly three-quarters of Americans have excess weight or obesity. So weight is a major daily concern for most people. It’s uncomfortable to talk about and as a consequence, it’s a topic that many will not publicly address. But Connecticut is now an “odd man out” for access to obesity care. For every other state in the Northeast, coverage of bariatric surgery by health plans is standard. Connecticut is the lone exception. This is why we must fight for better access to obesity care in Connecticut.

With the Affordable Care Act came into effect, each state needed to choose an HMO as a reference plan for healthcare. Connecticut chose a ConnectiCare plan that did not cover bariatric surgery. And ever since then, changing that plan has been a challenge because it would cost the state millions of dollars.

Movement After a Decade

Nearly a decade ago, Middlesex surgeon Jonathan Aranow tried to change Hartford by advocating for a bill to change this situation. Legislators told him it would never happen. In 2019, a group of bariatric surgeons in the Connecticut chapter of the ASMBS found help from Senator Eric Berthel to write a bill. Berthel himself had been a bariatric surgery patient. From personal experience, he knew the difference it could make in a person’s life and health.

The bill they wrote came out of the Insurance Committee. But after receiving a 4.4 million dollar price tag, it died. In 2020 the bill again was voted out of committee and had more support this time. But COVID-19 struck and the bill died again. Later that month we would learn that obesity is the most significant risk factor for death (after age) from the SARS-COV-2 virus. In 2021 the bill gained more support but this time senator Saud Anwar, a physician himself, proposed adding coverage for obesity medications. Now, the bill had the support of both the medical and surgical communities. So it now awaits a vote on the senate floor.

Patients Asking for Help

Individually my patients plead for help. They feel a desperate need for coverage of medications or surgery. But speaking out publicly on this subject is extraordinarily difficult. The stigma of obesity is overwhelming. When people speak up, they open themselves up to humiliating criticism. They fear harsh judgment for their weight because so many people think of excess weight as a moral failing instead of what it really is – a biological problem that can destroy a person’s health.

So we struggle to show the legislature how many people suffer daily from living with obesity. It is frustrating. We are grateful for the brave people who come forward to tell their stories. We hope for more. Because obesity is a condition that hides in plain sight, and without access to good, evidence-based care, it slowly destroys a person’s health and quality of life.

This is why I fight for better care for my patients.

For more on this effort, click here and here. For more on how you can help, click here.

Today’s guest post comes from Neil Floch, who is an advanced laparoscopic and bariatric surgeon in Norwalk, CT. He also serves as chair of the ASMBS Communication Committee.


The Genius of Connecticut, photograph by ilirjan rrumbullaku, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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April 26, 2021

One Response to “Access to Obesity Care in Connecticut”

  1. April 27, 2021 at 3:49 pm, Allen Browne said:

    Thank you, Neil. Well said!