Bariatric surgery is not only cost-effective for treating people who are severely obese, but also for those who are mildly obese, according to a new study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The findings support making bariatric surgery available to all obese people, the researchers say.
Patients who have the surgery are more likely to keep weight off over time and have fewer medical problems related to their weight, indicating the procedure is a good value. But beyond being cost-effective, the analysis shows that bariatric surgery actually saves health-care dollars for the most severely obese patients who also have diseases related to their weight such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.
"If lifetime medical costs are taken into consideration, surgery saves severely obese patients money," says Su-Hsin Chang, PhD, a postdoctoral research associate in the Division of Public Health Sciences and first author on the study published in the journal Maturitas.
National Institutes of Health (NIH) guidelines say candidates for bariatric surgery should have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more (about 100 pounds overweight for men and 80 pounds overweight for women on average) or a BMI of 35 to 40 if they also have obesity-related diseases. Many insurance companies pay for the procedure only if patients meet these criteria.
"Insurance companies often pay for treating obesity-related diseases," Chang says. "But a portion of those costs could be saved if they paid for bariatric surgery for a wider range of obese patients."
Among the many strategies for treating obesity, including dieting, exercising and medications, only bariatric surgery has been shown to be effective in maintaining a healthy weight over the long term. But surgery also is the most expensive strategy. Cost estimates range from $20,000-$25,000 for the initial surgery and don't include follow-up care.
|Contact: Julia Evangelou Strait|
Washington University School of Medicine