Surgeons Encourage Medicare Coverage for New Weight Loss Procedure

October 21, 2011 — Leading bariatric surgeons are urging the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to add the Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy – commonly known as ‘the sleeve’ – to the list of procedures covered by Medicare. CMS is currently taking comments from the public, and will continue to accept comments through October 30, 2011. After that deadline, they will consider the evidence and comments, and release a proposed decision memorandum. The sleeve, a relatively-unknown weight loss surgery, is a restrictive surgery that substantially lessens the size of the stomach. Doctors of Weight Loss is a group of leading bariatric surgeons from around that country which includes pioneers and nationally known experts in the sleeve procedure. These surgeons are strongly encouraging CMS to include this procedure in Medicare.

The Medical Director of NYU’s Langone Weight Management Program, Dr. Marina Kurian, is a long-time supporter of the sleeve. She was instrumental in establishing the Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) code for the sleeve, in her national role as the Insurance Committee Chairman for the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS). Dr. Kurian said, “The sleeve offers excellent longterm weight loss and also reduces hunger since the ghrelin producing cells are largely removed. The five year data shows that the sleeve provides sustained excess weight loss with low morbidity and mortality. The sleeve is an essential part of the armamentarium in treating morbid obesity.”

Also working towards Medicare coverage for the sleeve is Dr. Daniel Cottam of the Bariatric Medical Institute. A pioneer in establishing the sleeve as a weight loss surgery. Dr. Cottam says “While the gastric bypass has been a great operation for the morbidly obese, there are long-term concerns with the procedure. The sleeve gastrectomy eliminates many of the problems associated with gastric bypass, while retaining similar weight loss. As a surgeon who treats Medicare patients I am encouraged that they are considering this procedure as a covered benefit. If they will judge the procedure on its merits then it will join the band, bypass and duodenal switch as legitimate choices for our morbidly obese patients.”

Beverly Hills bariatric expert Dr. Mona Misra has seen and performed substantially more sleeve procedures recently, and wants this option available through Medicare. “I have seen significant successes in my own practice with the sleeve, with happier, healthier patients reaching and maintaining their weight loss, and comorbidity reduction goals. Many of these patients would not have pursued this life-saving therapy if not for their access to the option of the Sleeve Gastrectomy. I strongly encourage the CMS to add this to their list of covered procedures so that their covered individuals have equal access to this therapy and healthier longer lives.”

These Doctors of Weight Loss experts, along with many of their colleagues and national associations, are working to disseminate information, educate the public, and encourage CMS to allow Medicare coverage of the sleeve.