By Dr. Matthew Weiner, MD, FACS
Update July 25: We will be posting the essays of the four finalist to our Facebook fans. We will be posting them anonymously- meaning that we will not provide you the name of the person who wrote the essay.
We would like your input on each essay.
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We would also like you to comment on how the essay makes you feel if you are moved to do so. Click Here for the Pound of Cure Facebook Page
Please do not vote or comment. We don’t want to muddy the votes.
Thank you for helping with this very difficult decision.
July 21, 2013
All the submissions are in (over 70 in total) and deciding on the finalists has been agonizing. There were so many candidates, who truly need and deserve this surgery. Stories of discrimination, the impact of their weight on personal relationships, the frustration with the lack of success on countless diet programs and the fear of a shortened life were present in nearly every application. We will be releasing some of these essays in the weeks to come in an effort to draw attention to the continued acceptance of discrimination against obese people, the unfairness of insurance policies that exclude coverage for bariatric surgery and to help disprove the public’s perception that obesity is not a disease, but rather a lifestyle choice.
I was amazed at the amount of thought and energy that were put into these applications. When I initially proposed this idea, many people told me that lots of people would just submit an application on a whim and that there would be very few applicants who had put much thought into bariatric surgery before they heard about our program. Nothing could be further from the truth. As the applications came in, it became clear that the majority were from people who had been struggling for years to get the surgery done, but didn’t have the insurance coverage for it.
One thing that I was surprised by was that the vast majority of the applicants (>75%) did have health insurance, it just didn’t cover bariatric surgery. Determining the actual number of people who are insured but don’t have coverage for bariatric surgery is difficult. I’ve always estimated it at around 10%, based on my experience in my practice. What I suspect is that the actual number is much higher and that my experience underestimates this number since many people discover that they do not have coverage before they even make an appointment to meet with a bariatric surgeon.
As health care reform moves forward, it is important that coverage for bariatric surgery and other treatments of obesity be included. Based on the number of applications and the stories behind them, the magnitude of this problem is staggering. If there were this many stories of pain and suffering from our relatively unpublicized announcement released in a small part of southeastern Michigan, imagine the number of people who are suffering across the country. Surgeons have often times found themselves on the front lines of public health crises. Trauma surgeons see the devastation of violent crime on a daily basis, thoracic surgeons have long addressed the consequences of smoking and now bariatric surgeons are drawing attention to perhaps our country’s greatest public health crisis to date, obesity.
We will be releasing more information about our finalists and will be following one deserving individual through the process leading up to surgery and their progress over the first year after surgery. I am hopeful that this program will tell a story that captures people’s attention and makes them rethink the way they view others who are overweight. If you feel strongly that it’s time to end the last acceptable form of discrimination in our country, please share this story and those to come with your friends. If you believe that obesity is not a lifestyle choice, but a disease with a strong genetic basis that is caused by our toxic food environment and that insurance coverage should not be optional, share this story with your local politicians. Finally, if you know someone who is suffering from obesity, share your compassion and kindnesss with them and be sure to reserve your judgment until you know their story.