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Economic Value of Greater Access to Bariatric Procedures for Patients With Severe Obesity and Diabetes

Kim, David D. PhD*; Arterburn, David E. MD, MPH; Sullivan, Sean D. PhD; Basu, Anirban PhD‡,§

doi: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000000924
Original Articles

Objective: Designing optimal insurance is important to ensure access to care for individuals that are most likely to benefit. We examined the potential impact of lowering patient cost-sharing for bariatric procedures.

Methods: After defining 10 subgroups by body mass index (BMI) and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), we analyzed the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey datasets to estimate the prevalence of each subgroup. The MarketScan claims database provided utilization rates and costs of bariatric procedures. Using an existing cost-effectiveness model, we estimated the economic value of bariatric procedures under various cost-sharing levels (0%–25%) with 2 frameworks: (1) a traditional cost-effectiveness analysis and (2) a new approach that incorporates utilization effects across subgroups.

Results: The utilization rate was higher among individuals with T2DM than those without T2DM (90.4 vs. 59.1 cases per 100,000) for bariatric procedures, which were more cost-effective for those with T2DM and a higher BMI. After accounting for utilization effects, the economic value of bariatric surgery was $177 and $63 per individual from a lifetime and a 5-year time horizon, respectively. Under no patient cost-sharing for individuals with BMI≥40 and T2DM, utilization rates were expected to increase by 21 cases per 100,000, resulting in additional $2 realized value per patient and $7.07 million in returns at the US population level.

Conclusions: Cost-sharing is a barrier to uptake of a clinical and cost-effective treatment for severe obesity. Reducing cost-sharing for patients with severe obesity and T2DM could potentially increase the utilization of bariatric procedures and result in greater economic value to payers.

*Center for the Evaluation of Value and Risk in Health, Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies, Tufts Medical Center, Boston, MA

Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute

Pharmaceutical Outcomes Research and Policy Program, Department of Pharmacy

§Department of Health Services and Economics, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: David D. Kim, PhD, Center for the Evaluation of Value and Risk in Health, Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies, Tufts Medical Center, 800 Washington Street, P.O. Box 63, Boston, MA 02111. E-mail:

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