Wide variations in whether Medicare patients undergo bariatric surgery to treat obesity suggest that insurance coverage and provider preference are heavily influencing who has access to the procedure, a new report indicates. What the report didn't find, however, was a correlation between the bariatric surgery rate and the rate of diabetes and obesity in the community.
Patients in Muskegon, Mich., for example, are 27 times more likely to undergo bariatric surgery (PDF) than those in San Francisco, according to the report from the Dartmouth Atlas Project, a series that is looking at variations in care for surgical procedures.
The strict insurance criteria for the procedure makes it unlikely that the procedure is being overused, said Dr. Justin Dimick, one of the authors of the report who heads the division of minimally invasive surgery at the University of Michigan. It is more likely that there are patients who would qualify for the procedure who aren't getting it.