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Bariatric Surgery Does Not Appear to Cut Health Care Costs

Over a six-year period, costs are not significantly lower for patients undergoing bariatric surgery

Bariatric Surgery Does Not Appear to Cut Health Care Costs

MONDAY, Feb. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Bariatric surgery does not appear to reduce health care costs over a six-year period, according to an analysis published online Feb. 20 in JAMA Surgery.

Jonathan P. Weiner, Dr.P.H., from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, and colleagues conducted a longitudinal analysis of 2002 to 2008 claims data to examine whether bariatric surgery is associated with a reduction in health care costs. They compared 29,820 BlueCross BlueShield health insurance plan members who underwent bariatric surgery with the same number of patients from a matched comparison nonsurgical group.

The researchers found that during the second and third years after surgery the total costs in the bariatric surgery group were greater, but costs were similar in later years. Prescription and office visit costs were lower but inpatient costs were higher in the bariatric group. In the first few years post-surgery, costs were lower for those undergoing laparoscopic surgery, but these differences did not persist.

"During a six-year follow-up period of this privately insured cohort, we were unable to identify any short- or long-term reductions in overall health care costs associated with surgery," the authors write. "To assess the value of bariatric surgery, future studies should focus on the potential benefit of improved health and well-being of persons undergoing the procedure rather than on cost savings."

The study was partially funded by Ethicon EndoSurgery, Pfizer, and GlaxoSmithKline.

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