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Diabetics Can Save Money Long-Term With Bariatric Surgery


Bariatric surgery can help most diabetics save money over the course of their lives, even though this type of weight loss procedure can run as high as $30,000. The savings come primarily from the drastic drop in general healthcare costs for the diabetic, and especially from the minimal need for diabetes medications.

A new study on bariatric patients has shown that six months after their procedures, as many as 75% of the diabetic patients involved no longer needed their medications, and their yearly healthcare costs went down by over 70%. The study focused on the three-year period following their weight loss surgery.

To gather information for the study, researchers focused on data from insurance claims of over 2,235 patients in the U.S. who have Type II diabetes, and who had undergone weight loss surgery in the period between January 2002 and December 2005. The specific surgery done for the majority (nearly 85%) of the study patients was the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery.

Prior to their surgery, about 23% of the study patients were taking insulin and nearly 86% of the study patients were on some type of diabetes medication. The study reported changes that took place at specific intervals following the surgery – at 6 months, 1 year, and 2 years later – specifically noting the reduced levels of diabetes medication that the patients were taking.
The study concluded that:

  • 74.7% of the patients had stopped taking their medication within 6 months after their surgery.
  • 80.6% of the patients stopped their medication by the 1-year mark of their surgery.
  • 84.5% of the patients were no longer taking medication 2 years following their surgery.

When it became clear that significant proportions of the patients were able to get off their diabetes medication in short periods after their surgery also supports the theory that it is easier to control blood glucose levels when surgery is responsible for altering stomach hormones, than when the glucose levels drop by diets and other non-surgical forms of weight loss.

In addition, the majority of the patients also were able to get off other medications for serious conditions, such as blood pressure medications.

Another important issue covered by the study dealt with tracking the healthcare costs of these patients. It was learned that bariatric surgery indeed proved cost-effective for bariatric patients over the long run. Prior to their surgery, the patients were spending an average of $6,376 yearly on healthcare expenses. After their surgery, the patients reported these changes in healthcare expenses:
  • In the 1st year, individual annual healthcare costs rose by 9.7% ($616)
  • In the 2nd year, healthcare expenses dropped by 34.2% ($2,179) per person
  • In the 3rd year, costs decreased by 70.5% ($4,498) per person

With this data about the health and cost benefits in hand, researchers are calling for health insurers to provide coverage for bariatric surgery for suitable candidates. Researchers also hope that their support will be helpful to people who are seeking insurance coverage for their weight loss surgery.


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