Public health

8 trends in bariatric surgery from MSAC review

A review from the Medicare gatekeeper committee MSAC provides a snapshot of the uptake of Medicare-subsidised bariatric surgery for obesity in Australia.

The report for the Medical Services Advisory Committee reveals that since the introduction of eight new or amended MBS items for the bariatric weight loss procedures in 2013-14, the annual number of primary bariatric surgeries has risen from 17,762 to 23,828 in 2016-17, and Medicare has spent over $86 million on bariatric services.

The document also highlights that in the four-year period to 2016-17:

  • Over 48,000 patients had bariatric surgery in 2016-17, with just under half (21,411) having a primary service.
  • Sleeve gastrectomy is most common primary bariatric surgery, most often performed on women aged 35-54.
  • Use of gastric band adjustment has gradually fallen.
  • The average cost of sleeve gastrectomy is $2343, but some operators charge as much as $6000 for the item that has a schedule fee of $850.
  • Uninsured patients are paying up to $20,000 in out-of-pocket costs for bariatric surgery (this includes the cost of anaesthetist fees, theatre costs and hospital stays).
  • The average cost of gastroplasty fluctuated, doubling in 2015-16 to $2483 but then falling to $1552 the following year.
  • Most bariatric procedures (90%) were done in Queensland, Victoria and NSW.
  • Bulk billing rates for bariatric items are low at around 9%, with only about 10% performed on public patients int public hospitals

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