Waiting Period for Weight Loss Surgery Ineffective, Experts Say

Insurance carriers often mandate waiting periods of six months or more for would-be weight loss surgery patients, but a new study says this is wasted time.

The mandatory waiting period of six months imposed by some insurance companies between the time of approval and the time of surgery is useless, a new study says.

The common belief is that that the standard waiting period gives patients time to adapt to healthier diet and exercise habits that will be essential to their long-term success. Study findings presented at this year’s annual meeting of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) indicate that the waiting period is ineffective and has no bearing on whether or not the surgery will ultimately be a success.

Researchers followed 440 people who either had laparoscopic gastric bypass or laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding. Of those, 116 people were forced to wait six months by their insurance provider before undergoing the surgery. However, the study found that there was no significant difference in the percentage of weight loss between group that had a waiting period and the group that didn’t.

The author of the study, Dr. Timothy Kuwada of the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, NC, said that almost all patients receive nutritional and psychological counseling prior to bariatric surgery to help them with lifestyle changes after the surgery. He believes this approach is sufficient, but notes that given the expense involved, insurers are not out of line for asking patients to prepare for post-surgery life before their procedure, even if it takes six months.