Mass. health insurer limits bariatric surgery

Massachusetts-based Tufts Health Plan has said that as of early March, it will start imposing stricter limits on bariatric surgeries, in some cases requiring patients to go through a year of counseling and dieting before it will pay for such procedures. The restrictions include denying bariatric surgery to all patients with a BMI of less than 40, and limiting most patients with a BMI of 40 to 50 to less-expensive laparascopic banding surgery. These new criteria are tougher than those imposed by the state's largest health plans, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.

Tufts says that cutting back on gastric-bypass and stomach-banding procedures could improve patients' health, while saving the health plan millions of dollars. Many doctors are slamming the new policy, however, saying Tufts is ignoring medical evidence that such operations do help intractably obese patients. They also suggest that delaying such operations may worsen dangerous conditions such as diabetes and heart disease that often co-exist as complications of high body weight.

To learn more about Tufts' plans:
- read this piece in The Boston Globe