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Bariatric Surgery Fails to Shrink Healthcare Costs

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, July 17, 2012

The study enrolled 847 obese veterans who underwent surgery, commonly the Roux en Y gastric bypass procedure. Their healthcare costs were compared for both the three-year period prior to the surgery and three years after with another 847 obese veterans who did not undergo surgery. The patients were followed at 12 VA medical centers between the year 2000 and 2006.

"Adjusted total expenditures converged in the three years after the operation, from $4397 higher in the first six postsurgical months to similar expenditures in the 31 to 36 postsurgical months," according to the study.

It found, however, that more than twice as many lives were saved within the cohort that underwent the surgery compared with the group that did not undergo the procedure. The two-year death rate for patients who did not undergo surgery was 4.6%. But for those who underwent surgery, it was only 2.2%.

Maciejewski could not say what costs were incurred in the higher expenditure for this population of older male veterans that were not incurred in patient populations that are younger, healthier, or more likely to include females. That is part of a much larger study that Maciejewski hopes will answer some questions.

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