Impact of insurance plan design on bariatric surgery utilization

Hamlet Gasoyan, Michael T. Halpern, Gabriel Tajeu, David B. Sarwer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: Bariatric surgery is underused in the United States. Objectives: This study examined whether utilization of bariatric surgery is associated with payor and insurance plan type, after removing potential sociodemographic confounders. Setting: The study used Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council's data in 5 counties of Pennsylvania from 2014 to 2016. Methods: Bariatric surgery patients and eligible patients who did not undergo surgery were identified and 1:1 matched by age, sex, race, and zip code (n = 5114). A logistic regression was performed to investigate the association of payor type and insurance plan within payor type with odds of undergoing bariatric surgery. Results: The odds of undergoing bariatric surgery were not statistically different based on payor type. Medicare preferred provider organization plan was associated with greater odds of undergoing surgery (odds ratio [OR] = 2.49, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.23–5.04, P = .01) compared with Medicare health maintenance organization (HMO). Medicaid fee for service plan was associated with smaller odds of undergoing surgery (OR = .04, 95% CI .005–.27, P = .001) compared with Medicaid HMO. Individuals with Blue Cross preferred provider organization (OR = 2.43, 95% CI 1.83–3.24, P < .001), Blue Cross fee for service (OR = 1.79, 95% CI 1.32–2.43, P < .001), and Blue Cross HMO (OR = 1.85, 95% CI 1.39–2.46, P < .001) had greater odds of undergoing surgery compared with those with other commercial HMO plans. Conclusions: Specific aspects of insurance plan design, rather than more general payor type, is more strongly associated with the utilization of bariatric surgery. Further investigations could identify which components of insurance plan design have the greatest influence on the utilization of bariatric surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1812-1818
Number of pages7
JournalSurgery for Obesity and Related Diseases
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2019


  • Bariatric surgery
  • Health insurance
  • Insurance design

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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