Costs for bariatric surgery decline

Here's a sign that bariatric surgery as a discipline is maturing: The average rate of post-surgical and other complications for patients undergoing bariatric surgery--and thus, the cost of their care--has fallen 21 percent between 2002 and 2006, according to a new study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Complication rates dropped from 24 percent to about 15 percent, with much of the reduction coming from a fall in the post-surgical infection rate. Post-surgical infection rates fell 58 percent, while abdominal hernias, staple leakage, respiratory failure and pneumonia fell between 29 and 50 percent.

Interesting, complication rates fell in spite of a growth in the number of older and sicker patients having the operations, with the percentage of patients over 50 getting bariatric surgery climbing from 28 percent to 44 percent during the period.

Payments to hospitals fell as much as 13 percent for bariatric surgery during that period, partly because the patients had fewer complications and fewer readmissions, from $29,563 to $27,905. Expenses for patients who had complications dropped from $41,807 to $38,175, and payments for the costliest patients (whose who had to be readmitted due to complications) fell from $80,001 to $69,960.

I wonder how low the cost of bariatric surgery will have to get before health plans start covering it routinely--especially given that some studies say that bariatric surgery repays its cost within two to four years by saving on other medical costs, even at current prices?

To learn more about this trend:
- read this Healthcare Finance News article

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