Weight Loss Surgery Access Limited for Poor

Weight loss surgery is usually performed on white women with higher incomes and private health insurance, research shows. But disparities among racial and socio-economic lines puts low income patients at greater risk.

Weight Loss Surgery Access Limited for PoorMost people might guess that the majority of weight loss surgeries are performed on white women with higher incomes and private health insurance. But now, it’s official.

According to a new study released at the annual meeting of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, or ASMBS, a retrospective analysis of government data showed that of the 88,000 morbidly obese adults who had bariatric surgery in the United States in 2006, 81 percent were women, 75 percent were white and 82 percent had private health insurance.

As far as lifestyle is concerned, the vast majority—a whopping 80 percent—fell into higher household income categories.

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Actually, these statistics might seem applicable for most surgeries in the U.S.—but the problem is that in our country, the poor and under-insured are more likely to be morbidly obese. About 8 percent of the general population is underinsured, but 20% of the morbidly obese population is underinsured.

The most serious concern about lack of access to weight loss surgery is the often life-threatening co-morbidities of obesity, like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

In a statement to the media, Dr. Matthew J. Martin, an assistant professor of surgery at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington, commented that increasing access to bariatric surgery among the underserved population could impact the health and well-being of millions of people throughout the U.S.

The President of the ASMBS, Dr. Scott Shikora, noted that while Medicaid and government-run medical plans do cover bariatric surgery, long wait times for approval and seemingly arbitrary denials are common. This is an issue to keep in mind as Americans move closer to the likelihood of a more fully government-run medical plan.

One Response

  1. Wanda Gough

    Is there any access for the working obese. My health insurance, UHC, does not cover any weight-loss surgery for any reason and I only make about double the cost of surgery for my total annual income. Do I need to quit and get govenrment assistance. I am more than 100 lbs. overweight and in my late 50s. Any suggestions?


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