Twitter chat to focus on insurance hurdles in bariatric surgery

February 7, 2017  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources

There are 24 million Americans who are eligible for bariatric surgery, but each year fewer than 200,000 have the procedures that help people lose weight and make chronic conditions such as diabetes disappear.

The reason may come down to insurance coverage.

This weekend, Amir Ghaferi, M.D., M.S., Director of the Michigan Bariatric Surgery Collaborative, and colleagues, will explore why many insurance companies do not cover bariatric surgery and why those who do place difficult requirements prior to approval.

  • When: 9 p.m. – 10 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 12
  • Who: Ghaferi along with Neil Floch, M.D., bariatric surgeon at Norwalk Hospital, Norwalk, Conn.; Arghavan Salles, M.D., Ph.D., bariatric surgeon at Washington University Medical Center; Babak Moeinolmolki, M.D.. bariatric surgeon at Healthy Life Bariatrics in Los Angeles; and general surgery resident Heather Logghe, M.D.
  • How to join: Follow @obsmchat on Twitter and use the hashtag #OBSM to ask questions and follow the conversation.

The obesity medicine experts plan to engage patients, health practitioners, policy makers and other stakeholders to discuss the evidence around insurance companies’ current policies, bariatric surgery for treatment of obesity and diabetes and how obese patients can access care.

“Other chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer are widely covered by insurers without significant hurdles to evidence-based treatment,” Ghaferi said.

Patients with insurance plans covering bariatric surgery are faced with increasingly longer wait times which include mandated monthly nutrition visits.

For other types of surgery, requirements of patients prior to surgery are left to the discretion of the surgeon and the needs of individual patients.

“It’s unusual and often functions as a barrier to care,” said Ghaferi, assistant professor of surgery at U-M and director of the bariatric surgery program at VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System.

The topics to be covered during the Tweet chat include:

  • Is obesity a disease?
  • Are mandatory “medically supervised weight loss periods” prior to bariatric surgery evidence-based?
  • Does medical evidence support insurance coverage for bariatric surgery as a treatment to cure disease and improve patients’ health?
  • Independent of its impact on obesity, should bariatric surgery be a covered treatment for type 2 diabetes?
  • How can patients and providers advocate for coverage of bariatric surgery and what are the barriers?