Impact of a National Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence Program on Medicare Expenditures

Christopher P. Scally, Terry Shih, Jyothi R. Thumma, Justin B. Dimick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


Introduction: In 2006, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a national coverage decision restricting bariatric surgery to designated centers of excellence (COE). Although prior studies show mixed results on complications and reoperations, no prior studies evaluated whether this policy reduced spending for bariatric surgery. We sought to determine whether the coverage restriction to COE-designated hospitals was associated with lower payments from CMS. Methods: We utilized national Medicare claims data to examine 30-day episode payments for patients who underwent bariatric surgery from 2003 to 2010 (n = 72,117 patients). We performed an interrupted time series analysis, adjusting for patient factors, preexisting temporal trends, and changes in procedure type, to determine whether the 2006 coverage decision was associated with lower Medicare payments above and beyond any existing secular trends. For these analyses, we included payments for the index hospitalization, readmissions, physician services, and post-discharge ancillary care. Results: After accounting for patient factors, preexisting temporal trends, and changes in procedure type, there were no statistically significant improvements in episode payments after (US$14,720) vs before (US$14,283) the coverage decision (+US$437, 95 % CI, −US$10 to +US$883). In a direct assessment of payments for COE-designated hospitals (US$14,481) vs non-COE-designated hospitals (US$14,756), no significant differences in episode payments were found (−US$275, 95 % CI, −US$696 to +US$145). Conclusions: We found no significant reductions in 30-day episode payments after vs before restricting coverage to COE-designated hospitals. Center of excellence status is not a proxy for savings to the healthcare system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)708-714
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Gastrointestinal Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016



  • Bariatric surgery/economics
  • Bariatric surgery/outcomes
  • Healthcare costs
  • Obesity/economics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Gastroenterology

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