Here’s some welcome news for those who’ve been battling obesity but afraid to go under the knife for lack of insurance.
The central government health scheme will now offer reimbursement to patients for weight-loss surgery. Bariatric surgeons hope this move will force private insurance companies to re-think their health insurance policies, which currently don’t include obesity surgery on the ground that it is actually cosmetic surgery.
Dr Jayshri Todkar, country’s first bariatric surgeon and joint secretary of the Obesity Surgery Society of India, said eight to 10% of city’s population suffers from obesity-related health ailments.
“This is a great move... Now, private insurance companies must rethink their policies. Weight-loss surgery doesn’t just reduce the weight of a patient but also cures him/her of many diseases, such as obstructive sleep apnoea, fatty liver, diabetes and thickened veins,” she added.
Recently, state-run JJ hospital started conducting bariatric surgeries because its authorities believe it’s necessary to rid of the multiple health ailments obese people face.
Dr Ajay Bhandarwar of JJ hospital’s surgery department said, “The obese patients we have operated on so far have achieved significant weight loss. Also, the diabetic are no longer dependent on insulin and their sugar levels are under control. Such surgeries need to be made affordable to the poor as well.”
The World Health Organization, meanwhile, has predicted that 31% of Indian men and 29% of Indian women aged 30 or above will be overweight by 2015.
Dr Sanjay Borude, bariatric surgeon, Breach Candy Hospital, said, “People come to us for weight-loss surgery to get freedom from other illnesses, not to look good. It’s high time insurance companies recognise it as a disease and give cover for it.”
Private insurance companies, however, said they will wait and watch. Dr Amarnath Ananthanarayanan CEO & MD Bharti AXA General Insurance, said, “Obesity has to be a real medical disorder. We have to ensure people don’t start taking advantage of the cover.”
Agreeing with Ananthanarayanan, Sanjay Datta, head of underwriting and claims at ICICI Lombard, said, “If obesity is life-threatening, we can think about covering it, but it will be on a case-to-case basis and has to be rightly substantiated by doctors.”
Dr Jayant Jadhav, 57, thought that he had won the battle when he underwent a bariatric surgery.
For the orthopaedic surgeon, who weighed 98kg and suffered from uncontrolled diabetes and sleep apnoea, a gastric bypass surgery was the only way out of a possible development of retinopathy and nephropathy. However, for over eight months now, he has been trying to get his medical insurance firm to reimburse him. But the company has refused.