Should Texas use public funding for bariatric surgery?

Colin Court, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Background. Obesity in America has increased exponentially since the 1970s with no sign of slowing down. It is a major public health problem, and is currently the second leading cause of preventable deaths in America (Flegal et al., 2010). Bariatric surgery is currently the only approved therapy that has shown to have a lasting impact on obese patients. While the initial cost of the surgery remains high, numerous cost-benefit analyses have demonstrated an overall cost saving within two to five years (McEwen et al., 2010). Only three states, including Texas, do not currently fund bariatric surgery through Medicare and Medicaid. Objectives. To determine whether the current data on the cost-benefit analysis of bariatric surgery supports Texas' decision to not publicly fund bariatric surgery through its Medicare and Medicaid programs. Methods. We conducted literature reviews to determine the current cost of obesity in Texas as well as the methods being employed to treat obesity currently. We then analyzed the history of bariatric surgery and its current implementation, looking at safety and the future benefits of bariatric surgery. We then looked at key cost-benefit analyses and meta-analyses to determine the cost effectiveness of bariatric surgery. We then analyzed both direct medical expenditures and indirect benefits of bariatric surgery. Conclusions. If the obesity epidemic continues unabated, it will become one of the leading health expenditures in Texas within decades. Given that surgery is currently the only approved therapy for obesity that has been shown to be effective in the majority of patients, Texas' decision not to publicly fund bariatric surgery is short sighted.

Subject Area

Public health|Public policy

Recommended Citation

Court, Colin, "Should Texas use public funding for bariatric surgery?" (2012). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1515585.