Thursday, April 05, 2012

Call to Action: irresponsible Medicare denial of Sleeve coverage

Ok - I have been neglectful of this blog!  Have been retweeting a lot of the interesting stuff I see online, instead of posting links here.  Some good stuff on @bonuslife

I will post again soon with report from trip to DC for advocacy, but want to call URGENT ATTENTION to all about Medicare's unbelievable rejection of coverage for Sleeve Gastrectomy just yesterday.

HERE IS THE LINK FOR YOU TO COMMENT (may have to copy and paste to browser)

Many thanks to the leadership of ASMBS for their call to action.

The entire text of the decisions can be found here:
You can comment easily - just use the button on the top right of the page.

Here is my public comment - but please post your own - every person counts (and it can be short!)

Subject: Public Comment for Bariatric Surgery for the Treatment of Morbid Obesity

This is a notification that CMS has received your comment, as stated below, for the subject topic.
First Name: Walter
Last Name: Medlin MD
Email: --------

Comment: As a metabolic surgeon, and sleeve gastrectomy patient myself, I am distressed at the number of avoidable deaths this policy will cause. I have many Medicare patients who are waiting for this coverage for various reasons. 

Many are poor candidates for the adjustable gastric band due to large hiatal hernias or fear of the variable outcomes with bands. Some of these also have had celiac or inflammatory bowel disease, or nephrolithiasis, or extensive small bowel adhesions that greatly increase the risk of gastric bypass. 

This policy forces our seniors into a bad choice, and I speak from personal experience. This rightfully will be construed as an economic and discriminatory decision, setting the bar unnecessarily higher than for other disease treatments. 

While I agree that study of all our treatments should continue, it is frankly outrageous that this well studied, widely adopted intervention is rationed from our most worthy citizens. 

Unfortunately, I will have to bring obituaries to my Senators and Representative. This is a dangerous, harmful decision. I respectfully request that you immediately provide full coverage in line with STAMPEDE trial criteria.

Address #1: 2800 10th Avenue North
Address #2: 
City: Billings
State: Montana
Zip: 59107
Phone: 4062382500
Organization: Billings Clinic

Here is my letter to our Montana Senators.  Many thanks to their team for wonderful visit last week!  I didn't think it would be this soon that we had a crisis to discuss!

Dear Senators Tester and Baucus,

It was very nice to meet with you and your staff last week.  

I hope you will ask Medicare officials to listen carefully and respond to comments on their decision to deny coverage to millions of Americans for Sleeve Gastrectomy.

As a surgeon with the means to pay, I went into my own pocket to receive this care, but most of my patients do not have that option.  It really is terrible to see them suffer needlessly when we have effective, durable, evidence proven treatments that are life saving and life altering.

My blog and Twitter posts may be a bit too passionate, but I hope your team might review the links to the cooler heads at ASMBS, and stop this policy that hides bias between the lines of "we need more studies".  That sounded hollow coming from the tobacco industry, and from opponents of safety systems in cars.  It sounds no better coming from our Medicare administrators.


Walt Medlin MD
Billings, MT

blog -
Twitter @Bonuslife