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  • Writer's picturePeter Lundberg MD

Bariatric Surgery Woefully Underutilized

The medical community and, increasingly, patients, are acknowledging the data and increasingly agree that #bariatricsurgery is the most effective and, in the long run, the safest way to treat obesity. The life-changing therapies including #sleevegastrectomy and #gastricbypass not only reduce obesity but decrease the incidence of #cancer, #diabetes, #hypertension, and dozens of other conditions. Nonetheless, as expertly detailed in an article for Vox.com, Julia Belluz points out that while surgery is increasingly available, people struggling with obesity continue to preferentially pursue substantially less effective treatments.


I agree with the author and appreciate her research. She points out two main reasons why this situation persists. First, patients (and, sadly, many medical professionals) still believe that bariatric surgery is dangerous. While this may have been true at the time of its nascency, when most procedures were experimental, using non-standardized techniques, and performed with a large incisions, extensive multidisciplinary research and technological advancement over the past several decades have made bariatric surgery safer than common surgeries for knee replacement or gallbladder removal. This dedication to #safety is common to all #surgeons and has wrought many benefits to those seeking an answer to persistent #obesity. Second, #AccessToCare for most Americans remains troublesome regarding #insurance coverage for bariatric surgeries. While Medicare does cover these therapies, only half of states mandate coverage for government employees. In my home state of #Louisiana, most of the largest employers in the state, (including most hospitals!) do not enable their employees to even opt for a plan that covers bariatric surgery. This despite the evidence that bariatric surgery is #costeffective to the tune of $50,000 per quality-adjusted life year saved (#QALY - a metric that reflects improved quality of life, less health care utilization, and improved earnings due to healthier living). This, sadly, continues to be ignored in favor of hot-button issues by state and federal governments as well as most #healthinsurance companies in the face of the obesity #epidemic that costs the United States roughly $210 billion per year.


As more non-medical sources like Vox and influencers like Ms Belluz echo the advocacy of bariatric professionals and patients alike, hopefully these policies began to change in favor of Americans with obesity.


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