Bariatric surgery insurance requirements independently predict surgery dropout

Kaitlin M. Love, J. Hunter Mehaffey, Dana Safavian, Bruce Schirmer, Steven K. Malin, Peter T. Hallowell, Jennifer L. Kirby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Background Many insurance companies have considerable prebariatric surgery requirements despite a lack of evidence for improved clinical outcomes. The hypothesis of this study is that insurance-specific requirements will be associated with a decreased progression to surgery and increased delay in time to surgery. Methods Retrospective data collection was performed for patients undergoing bariatric surgery evaluation from 2010–2015. Patients who underwent surgery (SGY; n = 827; mean body mass index [BMI] 49.1) were compared with those who did not (no-SGY; n = 648; mean BMI: 49.4). Univariate and multivariate analysis were performed to identify specific co-morbidity and insurance specific predictors of surgical dropout and time to surgery. Results A total of 1475 patients using 12 major insurance payors were included. Univariate analysis found insurance requirements associated with surgical drop out included longer median diet duration (no-SGY = 6 mo; SGY = 3 mo; P<.001); primary care physician letter of necessity (P<.0001); laboratory testing (P =.019); and evaluation by cardiology (P<.001), pulmonology (P<.0001), or psychiatry (P =.0003). Using logistic regression to control for co-morbidities, longer diet requirement (odds ratio [OR].88, P<.0001), primary care physician letter (OR.33, P<.0001), cardiology evaluation (OR.22, P =.038), and advanced laboratory testing (OR 5.75, P =.019) independently predicted surgery dropout. Additionally, surgical patients had an average interval between initial visit and surgery of 5.8±4.6 months with significant weight gain (2.1 kg, P<.0001). Conclusion Many prebariatric surgery insurance requirements were associated with lack of patient progression to surgery in this study. In addition, delays in surgery were associated with preoperative weight gain. Although prospective and multicenter studies are needed, these findings have major policy implications suggesting insurance requirements may need to be reconsidered to improve medical care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)871-876
Number of pages6
JournalSurgery for Obesity and Related Diseases
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Surgery


  • Access to care
  • Bariatric surgery
  • Gastric bypass
  • Insurance requirements


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