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Obese Poor Shut Out From Weight-Loss Surgeries
Date:6/25/2009

Too often, they lack insurance or face roadblocks in getting the procedures, study finds

THURSDAY, June 25 (HealthDay News) -- Despite having one of the highest rates of obesity in America, the poor are less likely to undergo weight loss surgery than obese people who are better off financially, new research shows.

White women with higher incomes and private health insurance were the most likely to have the surgery, according to a study to be presented Wednesday at the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) annual meeting, in Dallas.

Using data from the 2006 Nationwide Inpatient Sample, sponsored by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, researchers identified 88,000 morbidly obese adults who had bariatric surgery in the United States in 2006.

Of those, 81 percent were women, 75 percent were white, 80 percent had incomes at least two times the poverty level and 82 percent had private health insurance.

Although government statistics show that blacks make up 18 percent of morbidly obese adults, they represented only 11 percent of people getting bariatric surgeries, the team noted.

"The socioeconomic differences we found were pretty striking," said Dr. Matthew J. Martin, an assistant professor of surgery at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash. "Income, race, insurance status, and even your gender, are potential barriers to access to surgery."

Morbid obesity was defined as having a body-mass index (BMI) over 40, or a BMI of 35 to 40 with an obesity-related disease such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease or sleep apnea, criteria established by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Despite a growing body of evidence that bariatric surgery is among the most effective long-term treatments for severe obesity, few actually undergo the procedure, which cost an average of about $37,000, according to the study.

In fact, less than o
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