The number of facilities performing weight loss surgery for members of WellPoint's affiliated health plans soared--by 43 percent--from 848 in 2006 to 1,216 in 2007.
Costs during the follow-up period were also lower for patients treated at designated centers, with the greatest difference observed for open gastric bypass procedures, according to the HealthCore study.
"The average follow-up costs for open gastric bypass 30 days after surgery were 47 percent lower for Blue Distinction Centers as compared to other centers," said Andrea DeVries, research operations director for HealthCore. "This corresponds to the finding that Blue Distinction Centers had fewer complications."
In other trending information on WellPoint affiliated health plans' members, HealthCore noted that women are more likely to get the surgery, making up 78 percent of all those undergoing bariatric surgery in 2007. The rate of weight loss surgeries increased by 12 percent from 2006 to 2007, pushed by an increase in the number of laparoscopic adjustable gastric band procedures. That also changed the ratio of inpatient to outpatient procedures, with outpatient surgeries rising from 10 percent of all procedures in 2006 to 20 percent in 2007.
"Several studies have determined that overall weight loss and how quickly a patient loses weight differ based on the weight loss procedure performed," Latts said. "Patients should make the decision about the procedure that's best for them in consultation with their physician."
Obesity is widely recognized as a major contributor to health risks. Bariatric surgery is considered a tool to help severely obese patients lose weight and is typically used in conjunction with a program of nutritional and exercise counseling.
About the Blue Distinction program
Participating providers for Blue Distinction Centers
|SOURCE HealthCore and WellPoint, Inc|
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