Bariatric surgery is only recourse for some patients and it must be covered

LETTER — Posted May 3, 2004

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Regarding "Insurers trim bariatric surgery coverage" (Article, April 5):

Insurers' attempts to block coverage of bariatric surgery is loathsome and a blatant disregard for the health of those they have contracted to care for -- all done under the fatuous guise of concern for the "safety" of such surgery. Nonsense.

Bariatric surgery is the only recourse for many patients who have chronically battled with their obesity. No one takes it lightly.

Doctors and patients fully appreciate the risks of such an intervention, but they also fear the long-term complications of obesity. The postoperative course is not a picnic. No patient uses it as "an easy way out."

Yet, once again, obese patients are judged as weak and lacking in character, and their illness is lumped together with "lifestyle" health issues. The result is blatant money-grubbing by insurers and overt discrimination of obese patients. Any entry-level bookkeeper should be able to realize that the cost of the surgery is far outweighed by the long-term improvements of the patient's health.

As much as I hate to say it, we are forced to work with legislators for state-level laws to prevent such coverage blocking. Obesity is a true medical illness and must be covered.

Andrew Pavlatos, MD, Chicago

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2004/05/03/edlt0503.htm.

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