Obesity Action Coalition Applauds Medicare’s Expansion of Coverage for Obesity Surgery and Calls on Private Insurers to follow Suit

For Immediate Release
February 21, 2006

For More Information:
James Zervios
Director of Communications
(800) 717-3117
jzervios@obesityaction.org

Tampa, FL – Today, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced it will expand its national coverage policy for obesity surgery. The new policy applies to all Medicare recipients including those more than 65 years old and Medicare disabled. The policy expands the surgery options to include open and laparoscopic gastric bypass, laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding and open and laparoscopic biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch as long as the procedure is conducted at a comprehensive program certified by the American Society of Bariatric Surgery/Surgical Review Corporation or the American College of Surgeons.

“The OAC is grateful that Medicare will provide expanded options to those affected by morbid obesity. Medicare’s endorsement of the safety and effectiveness of bariatric surgery provides the morbidly obese with increased opportunity to access care and decrease the many life-threatening co-morbid conditions associated with their disease, such as heart disease, diabetes and much more. Through Medicare’s decision today, the healthcare community has most certainly taken a proactive step in the right direction,” said Joseph Nadglowski, Jr., OAC President and CEO.

In May of 2005, the ASBS, along with other organizations, called on CMS to expand their coverage for obesity surgery. On November 23, 2005, CMS released their proposed rules for extending coverage of bariatric surgery. With the dedication of the ASBS and the many individuals affected by obesity, CMS has made significant decision for all obese and morbidly obese Medicare recipients.

Previously, Medicare’s policy only covered gastric bypass surgery if it was medically appropriate and if the surgery was used to correct an illness which caused the obesity or was aggravated by the obesity. In addition, coverage varied from region to region due to the absence of a national coverage decision.

“The OAC applauds CMS for their decision and calls on those private insurers that do not cover obesity surgery to follow suit with CMS and provide surgery as a treatment option for morbid obesity,” said Nadglowski.

Obesity impacts one in four Americans. It is estimated that more than 93 million Americans are obese; and eight to 12 million are morbidly obese. The OAC aims to bring national attention to this disease, eliminate the negative stigma associated with it and help the millions affected by it through education and advocacy.

About the OAC
The OAC is a nonprofit National charity dedicated to helping those affected by obesity. The OAC was formed to bring together individuals struggling with weight issues and provide educational resources and advocacy tools.



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