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Call for Universal Coverage for Bariatric Surgery and Obesity Treatments

  • Published: 2012-07-22 (Revised/Updated 2016-04-06) : Author: American Osteopathic Association
  • Synopsis: House of Delegates votes to urge federal state policymakers and health insurers to cover treatments for severe obesity including bariatric surgical procedures.

Quote: "Although bariatric surgery has been shown to be an effective long-term treatment, universal coverage for all effective treatments for severe obesity is not available."

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Osteopathic Physicians Call for Universal Coverage for Bariatric Surgery and Other Obesity Treatments.

There are many types of weight-loss surgery, known collectively as bariatric surgery. Gastric bypass is one of the most common types of bariatric surgery in the United States. Many surgeons prefer gastric bypass surgery because it generally has fewer complications than other weight-loss surgeries.

Addressing the obesity epidemic, members of the American Osteopathic Association's (AOA) House of Delegates voted today to urge federal and state policymakers and health insurers to cover treatments for severe obesity, including bariatric surgical procedures.

Obesity, defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of more than 30, is associated with more than 300,000 deaths in the United States, according to the Surgeon General, and severe obesity is defined as having a BMI of more than 35.

Although bariatric surgery has been shown to be an effective long-term treatment, universal coverage for all effective treatments for severe obesity is not available.

"If we're going to treat the whole person, surgery is an important component of obesity treatment," says Adam B. Smith, DO, a surgeon at Fort Worth (Texas) Lap-Band, a weight loss and bariatric medicine surgical practice.

Citing more than 15 years of clinical research data on gastric bypass surgery and some 10 years of data on laparoscopic gastric banding that show weight loss surgery often leads to significant improvements in obesity-related illnesses - especially Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and obstructive sleep apnea - Dr. Smith explains that bariatric surgery is an effective treatment in addition to nonsurgical treatments for helping once-severely obese people maintain their weight loss.

"We're not making these people look like Barbie. We're treating a disease surgically," clarifies Dr. Smith, who is also a delegate to the AOA's House representing the American College of Osteopathic Surgeons, the group that proposed the obesity treatment policy.

Additionally, the new policy directs the AOA to support the Obesity Action Coalition's efforts to secure coverage for all recognized treatments for severe obesity. The coalition is the only national nonprofit organization with the sole focus of helping individuals affected by obesity.

About the House of Delegates - The AOA's House of Delegates, comprised of more than 500 delegates representing osteopathic state medical associations, specialty societies, interns, residents and students from throughout the country, meets annually in July to set organizational policies and elect new officers.

About the American Osteopathic Association - The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) proudly represents its professional family of more than 100,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs) and osteopathic medical students; promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for DOs; is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical schools; and has federal authority to accredit hospitals and other health care facilities. More information on DOs/osteopathic medicine can be found at


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