Despite the nearly $30,000 price tag, a new study found that bariatric surgery saved money in the long run for the majority of people with diabetes. The cost savings resulted from a reduction in the use of diabetes medications and overall health care costs.
According to study results, nearly 75% of diabetic patients were off medications at 6 months after bariatric surgery and annual health care costs for diabetic patients dropped by more than 70% three years after bariatric surgery.
For the study, researchers at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore examined the insurance claims data for more than 2,235 patients with type 2 diabetes who underwent bariatric surgery in the United States during a four-year period from January 2002 through December 2005. The majority of the patients (84.2%) in the study underwent Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery.
Before surgery, about 86% of the patients were on at least one diabetes medication and about 23% of patients were on insulin. After surgery, the following reduction of diabetes medication therapy was observed:
- At 6 months after surgery, 74.7% of the patients were able to stop taking medications.
- At 1 year after surgery, 80.6% of the patients were able to stop taking medications.
- At 2 years after surgery, 84.5% of the patients were able to stop taking medications.
The observance that many patients were able stop taking their medications within a short period of time, even before they had lost large amounts of weight, backs the theory that blood glucose levels are better controlled when stomach hormones are altered through surgery than by weight loss alone.
The majority of patients were able to stop taking other medications as well, including high-blood pressure medications.
The study also tracked health care costs and found that in the long run bariatric surgery saved money for diabetic patients. Compared to a preoperative annual health care cost per person of $6376 before surgery, bariatric surgery resulted in the following changes:
- In year 1, total annual health care costs per person increased by 9.7% ($616)
- In year 2, health care costs decreased by 34.2% ($2179)
- In year 3, health cares costs decreased by 70.5% ($4498)
Researchers reached the conclusion that health insurers should cover bariatric surgery for appropriate candidates because of the health and cost benefits. This information should help individuals who are trying to get insurance coverage for bariatric surgery.
The study was funded by the Department of Health and Human Services and published in this month’s Archives of Surgery, a Journal of the American Medical Association publication.