Health Plans Don’t Cover Weight Loss Surgery

Insurance coverage is the largest hurdle for obese Americans who want to undergo weight loss surgery, doctors say.

Credit: CBS

WASHINGTON (February 14, 2014) While the number of obese Americans remains at record levels, the number of patients undergoing weight loss surgery hasn't budged in a decade.

Last year, about 160,000 U.S. patients underwent weight loss surgery, which was roughly the same number as in 2004 and only about 1 percent of the estimated 18 million adults who qualify nationwide for the surgery, according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.

Surgeons blame a combination of factors for the stagnating numbers, including the economic downturn and a social stigma against resorting to surgery to treat weight problems, but insurance coverage is the largest hurdle, they say.

Nearly two-thirds of health plans sponsored by employers don't cover weight loss surgery, which can cost between $15,000 and $25,000.


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