Morbid obesity is associated with serious health and social consequences, high medical costs and is increasing in the USA, particularly among rural, socioeconomically disadvantaged populations. Bariatric surgery more often provides significant long-term weight loss than traditional weight loss treatments. We examined the likelihood of bariatric surgery among morbidly obese patients across rural/urban locales, racial/ethnic groups, insurance categories, socioeconomic, and comorbidity levels.
We examined 159,116 records representing 774,000 patients with morbid obesity from the 2006 Nationwide Inpatient Sample. We determined the likelihood, expressed in odds ratios, of bariatric surgery associated with each patient characteristic using survey-weighted univariate logistic regression. We also performed multivariate logistic regression, assuming all patient factors were independent.
After adjusting for patient-level characteristics, the most rural residents were 23% less likely to receive bariatric surgery than urban residents. Other demographic features associated with significantly lower odds ratios for bariatric surgery included minority status, male gender, lower income, older age, non-private insurance status, and higher comorbidity. Rural-dwelling patients who are non-white, male, poorer, older, sicker, and non-privately insured almost never received bariatric surgery (OR = 0.0089).
Though obesity is more prevalent among middle-aged, rural, economically disadvantaged, and racial/ethnic minority populations, these patients are unlikely to access bariatric surgery. Because obesity is a leading cause of preventable morbidity and mortality in the USA, effective treatments should be made available to all patients who might benefit. Current Medicare/Medicaid policies that reimburse only high volume centers may effectively deny rural residents who rely on these insurance programs for bariatric surgery.