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The Obesity Society took the next step to advance the treatment of obesity by publishing an unprecedented level of obesity research, in print and online, as a supplement to its July and August issues of the Obesity journal: Guidelines (2013) for Managing Overweight and Obesity in Adults: Full Report. Now, the print version of the supplement is available for purchase as a reference guide for obesity treatment.


MUMBAI: After years of looking at bariatric surgery as a cosmetic weight-loss procedure, Indian medical insurance companies seem to have changed their minds. They have begun reimbursing some patients who have undergone bariatric surgery — now classified as a metabolic operation that involves cutting or bypassing parts of the stomach and intestine — to control or even get rid of their diabetes.

K Satishan (name changed), a 62-year-old businessman from Pune who was a diabetic patient for 15 years, got Rs 5 lakh reimbursement from Bajaj Allianz after he and his doctors explained that the surgery was literally his last option. "I was on high doses of insulin and oral medication and yet my sugar levels were four times the normal," he said.

While bariatric surgeries essentially lead to weight loss, a welcome side-effect has been the control of diabetes and hypertension. These surgeries were initially recommended for morbidly obese people, but in the last five years they are being offered to diabetic patients who are not obese. "Satishan was 90-odd kg. His weight wasn't as much a problem as his diabetes and hypertension," said Shashank Shah, a metabolic surgeon from Pune who operated on the businessman.

Another of Shah's patients, Somnath Holkar, got reimbursed from United India Insurance after six months of explanations. "I underwent the operation seven months ago and got the reimbursement last month."

Satishan recalled how he took his blood sugar and pressure readings everyday and showed the three-month chart to the insurance firm. "I don't take any diabetic pills now. The company even interviewed my doctor before agreeing," he said. He was operated in May 2013 and got his reimbursement recently.

Incidentally, the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) in December declared it would fund bariatric surgeries for current and former government employees. Ramen Goel, a metabolic surgeon from Mumbai, said if CGHS can fund surgeries for its employees, insurance firms should take the cue.

Sanjay Datta from ICICI Lombard said medical insurance companies have begun reimbursing bariatric and metabolic surgeries on a case-to-case basis.

Metabolic surgery for diabetes is still in trial stage, with many medical associations admitting that long-term studies are needed before accepting surgery as a cure for diabetes. Hence, many patients who have undergone metabolic surgeries in the last five years have go reimbursements only after moving consumer courts.

Doctors hope insurance payoffs will become the trend, especially because India has over 60 million diabetes patients. Shah, who has operated on 800 patients for diabetes, said many of them are now approaching insurance firms. "A patient who is scheduled to undergo surgery in Fortis Hospital in Mulund is awaiting his insurance company's decision," he added.

Medical insurance firms have begun reimbursing some patients who have undergone bariatric surgery to control or even get rid of their diabetes.

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