Over the past ten years, weight loss surgery has skyrocketed in the United States and so have concerns about safety. That's why in 2006 Medicare put a rule in place, that it would only reimburse for surgery at so called centers of excellence. But a new study out of the University of Michigan may call that policy into question.
A 'center of excellence' is an accredited hospital that performs at least 125 bariatric procedures each year. Doctors studied Medicare and non Medicare bariatric patients from 12 states between 2004 and 2009. University of Michigan doctor Justin Dimick said, "outcomes did get dramatically better over the study period, but this improvement was already underway before Medicare made this rule."
The study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found no difference in surgeries at different centers.
"When we directly compared outcomes at centers of excellence to non-centers of excellence they were equivalent. So, the so-called centers of excellence actually did not have better performance," Dimick said.
Researchers also found two negative side-effects of this policy.
"Patients aren't getting the surgery in the first place and patients who are getting surgery have to travel further, sometimes away from their home and their family to undergo the procedure," Dimick added.
The bottom line experts say, surgical experience and technology has also improved over time and researchers suggest that medicare should reevaluate this policy.