To pay or not to pay: public perception regarding insurance coverage of obesity treatment

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013 Dec;21(12):E709-14. doi: 10.1002/oby.20387. Epub 2013 Jun 11.


Objective: To explore public opinion regarding insurance coverage for obesity treatment among severely obese adolescents.

Design and methods: The National Poll on Children's Health was fielded to a nationally representative sample of US adults, January 2011. Respondents (n = 2150) indicated whether insurance should cover specific weight management services for obese adolescents and whether private insurance and Medicaid should cover bariatric surgery. Sampling weights were applied to generate nationally representative results. Linear and logistic regression analyses were performed to assess associations.

Results: More respondents endorsed insurance coverage for traditional healthcare services (mental health 86%, dietitian 84%) than for services generally viewed as outside the healthcare arena (exercise programs 65%, group programs 60%). For bariatric surgery, 81% endorsed private insurance coverage; 55% endorsed Medicaid coverage. Medicaid enrollees, black, Hispanic, and low-income respondents had greater odds (P < 0.05) of endorsing bariatric surgery coverage by Medicaid, compared to the referent groups (non-Hispanic white, income ≥$60K, private insurance).

Conclusion: Although public support for insurance coverage of traditional weight management services appears high, support for Medicaid coverage for bariatric surgery is lower and varies by demographics. If public opinion is a harbinger of future coverage, low-income adolescents could experience disparities in access to treatments like bariatric surgery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Bariatric Surgery / economics
  • Black People
  • Child
  • Child Health Services / economics
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Health Surveys
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Humans
  • Insurance Coverage / economics*
  • Medicaid / economics
  • Obesity / economics*
  • Obesity / therapy*
  • Poverty
  • Public Opinion*
  • United States
  • Weight Loss