Health Watch — Weight Loss Surgery: Access

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.


This week on Health Watch, we’ve been talking about surgeries to help patients achieve weight loss. There are serious health risks associated with obesity, and bariatric surgery can help morbidly obese patients lose weight. Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center report that poor patients may not have access to this surgery. That’s because Medicare and Medicaid will only pay for surgeries performed at high-volume centers. But most poor patients have this surgery at low-volume centers.

Dr. Edward Livingston, chairman of gastrointestinal surgery at UT Southwestern, says the federal rules limit access to bariatric surgery for the population that stands to gain the most from the surgery. The rules are because high-volume centers have statistically better outcomes, but low-volume centers tend to take more higher-risk patients.


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November 2007

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