Bariatric surgery doesn't cut costs

Often touted as a potential weapon against obesity and its associated costs to the healthcare system, a new study suggests bariatric surgery may not be an economical measure after all.

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health examined the health records of nearly 30,000 people who underwent bariatric surgery between 2002 and 2008 and found that while the average procedure cost nearly $30,000, the average annual claims per patient in the years after the surgery ranged between $8,700 and $9,900.

By comparison, the control group's costs were $8,714, reported the Los Angeles Times, which noted the costs of the surgery were not recouped.

"No way does this study say you shouldn't do bariatric surgery," study lead author Jonathan Weiner told Reuters, but added "we need to view this as the serious, expensive surgery that it is, that for some people can almost save their lives, but for others is a more complex decision."

But some healthcare policymakers want to focus obesity efforts on lifestyle changes rather than radical measures like surgery, the LA Times noted. Lifestyle alterations cost "a pittance compared with what we're doing with bariatric surgery," according to Kenneth Thorpe, chairman of health policy and management at Emory University's School of Public Health.

To learn more:
- here's the research annoucement
- read the Reuters article
- here's the Los Angeles Times article