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Government restrictions on weight loss surgeries limit access for poor, underinsured patients
Date:10/30/2007

DALLAS Oct. 30, 2007 Thresholds limiting bariatric surgeries to high-volume centers disproportionately restrict access for poor and underinsured patients, populations which are among the most in need of them, an analysis led by UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers shows.

Government-imposed restrictions currently mandate a 125-case annual threshold for facilities permitted to perform bariatric surgeries under Medicare and Medicaid because some studies have identified better outcomes for centers performing large volumes of bariatric surgeries. But most bariatric surgeries for the poor about 60 percent are performed in low-volume centers.

Restricting surgeries to high-volume centers has the effect of limiting bariatric surgery as an option for many poor and underinsured who rely on Medicare and Medicaid, said Dr. Edward Livingston, senior author of the study appearing in the October edition of Archives of Surgery. This is a population that stands to gain the most from bariatric surgery.

Dr. Livingston is chairman of gastrointestinal and endocrine surgery at UT Southwestern and chairman of the Veterans Administration Central Office Bariatric Surgery Work Group.

Nearly three quarters of hospitals offering bariatric surgery are considered low-volume facilities under the 125-case threshold, thereby leaving few centers available for impoverished populations.

Yet low-income patients, particularly those in rural areas, may not be able to travel to the limited number of high-volume centers due to costs such as gas, access to public transportation or personal vehicles, or health matters that limit their travel, Dr. Livingston said.

Such restrictions further limit medical expertise for morbidly obese patients by reducing the number of hospitals well-equipped and properly staffed to handle the special needs of these cases. Regionalization results in the global reduction of experience in managing ob
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Contact: Russell Rian
russell.rian@utsouthwestern.edu
214-648-3404
UT Southwestern Medical Center  
Source:Eurekalert

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