Tuesday, April 22, 2014

EZ weight loss procedure not so EZ.

Have I mentioned that I love military medical care?

About six months ago, my dear wife of 45+ years was referred by her primary care physician at our nearby Army Hospital for evaluation for bariatric surgery. She is not grossly overweight but has always weighed more than she should and, sadly, thinks of herself as "fat."  She is also a Type II diabetic (which she currently controls without insulin) and some acquaintances have told us their diabetes "went away" after bariatric surgery or other significant weight loss. So, Glenda was anxious for the surgery, as she wants to be more fit and more proud of her body, and would love to see the diabetes go away. So long, I guess, as dieting and exercise are not involved. That's always been my position on the subject, too.

During the evaluation for the surgery she was subjected to nearly every medical test known to mankind, EKG, ECG, MRI, Upper- and Lower-GI series, blood, stool, and urine tests. She had to meet with a psychiatrist and attend group support sessions. All of this took months and hundreds of miles of driving. She passed all the tests and checked all the blocks and was told in late January that she would be called in "two to six weeks." We waited. Then we called. Then we waited some more. Today, she called the bariatrics clinic again, and was told that the bariatric surgery would not be available to her as the surgeon had been deployed. Army doctors must first support Army troops. No question, no argument there.

But I wonder what the paying party thinks of having spent a LOT of money on her surgery evaluation and preparation only to see the anticipated benefits not being delivered? After all, Humana, the insurance company that pays the vast bulk of our Tri-Care Prime military medical care, must have counted on lower life-time care costs due to the better health likely a result of the weight loss the surgery promised to deliver. Otherwise, why would they have approved this elective surgery. No surgery, no related weight loss, no resulting improved health, no reduction in life-time care costs.

I don't know how much all of the exams and preparatory work she underwent cost Humana. I know what our co-pay was and I could guess at the cost of all these exams. I shake my head at the waste of medical resources in this situation.

Glenda is going to speak with her primary care physician to see if it is possible to be referred to a local civilian hospital that has a good reputation in bariatric surgery, but I don't know if that's within his powers. If that fails, we may try to meet with the ombudsman at the military hospital. I'll be back when I know more.

Have I mentioned that I love military medical care?