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Bariatric Surgery Probably Does Not Reduce Healthcare Costs

March 24, 2013

I’ve written in the past about a few long-term studies of bariatric surgery outcomes as a treatment for morbid obesity. They found that the incidence of diabetes is reduced in morbidly obese patients who undergo this surgery, and even reverses diabetes and hypertension in some cases.

From a cost perspective, what is the trade-off? On the cost side, there is the price of the surgery. On the savings side, there are reduced future costs of the aforementioned chronic diseases.

A recent study in JAMA Surgery found that in balance, these costs and savings cancel out. The researchers followed the claims of 29,820 BlueCross BlueShield insurance plan members who had various stomach-altering procedures, and compared their claims with other members with similar profiles. It turns out there are other costs of the procedure downstream from the original surgery. There were further procedures and other inpatient costs that were balanced against lower prescription and outpatient costs.

And now bariatric surgery joins the pantheon of innovations that will not save us from the exorbitant cost of U.S. healthcare.

2 Responses to Bariatric Surgery Probably Does Not Reduce Healthcare Costs

  1. NewMexicoRam on March 25, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    Seems that after improved sanitation, antibiotics, and healthy foods, there just isn’t much with innovations in health care that really make much difference anymore.

    • Richard Young MD on March 26, 2013 at 9:10 pm

      Well, there are now $120,000 treatments for metastatic cancers that increase one’s life expectancy by 4 months.

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