Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Hey, Feds, Weight a Minute...

Hey, Feds, Weight a Minute...
By Sandy Szwarc, RN, BSN, CCP
Published 10/26/2004 TCS

The federal government recently ruled that taxpayers will foot the bills for weight loss surgeries and other weight loss treatments for Medicare patients, if medical evidence can demonstrates their effectiveness. This is the door opening to broader obesity-related coverages, as a September 30th New York Times article revealed. According to Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans, the national health insurance trade organization, everyone's premiums will be impacted if, as expected, private and employer-based health insurance plans follow suit. It's anticipated that as coverage becomes more readily available, more Americans will seek the surgeries and the numbers performed will skyrocket from this year's estimated 144,000 surgeries. So will the costs.

The American Obesity Association, whose sponsors include bariatric surgical groups, weight loss drug companies and weight loss programs like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, already succeeded in April 2002 getting the IRS to designate weight loss treatments, including weight loss surgeries, as tax deductible and hence government sanctioned. As our nation faces rising healthcare costs, concerns over troubled Medicare and social security programs and an aging population, many are asking if our healthcare dollars are best spent on these surgeries and where's the proof they're beneficial?

The "proof" appeared to come last week as headlines announced a new study which "validates" obesity surgeries and found them "beneficial" and "can save lives."

The "study" found nothing of the kind. But it did point out how deadly and costly it can be to base healthcare policies and healthcare decisions on bad science.

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