Medicare Drops Bariatric Surgery Accreditation Requirement

Miriam E. Tucker

September 26, 2013

Despite opposition from surgical groups, Medicare announced yesterday it is dropping its 7-year-old accreditation requirement for bariatric-surgery facilities.

The agency said that continuing the requirement for certification for bariatric-surgery facilities would not improve health outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries in a decision memo on September 24.

When it was issued as a proposal in June, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) move provoked strong opposition from surgical groups, 5 of which sent the CMS a letter of protest in July.

"We are disappointed and in strong disagreement with a ruling that appears to disregard overwhelming scientific evidence and medical opinion that bariatric-accreditation programs save lives, improve patient outcomes, and enhance the quality of care," Jaime Ponce, MD, a bariatric surgeon with Hamilton Medical Center in Dalton, Georgia, and president of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), said yesterday in a statement his organization issued jointly with the American College of Surgeons (ACS).

And, said ACS executive director David B. Hoyt, MD, "The standards required for accreditation provide important lifesaving safeguards for patients, particularly for Medicare beneficiaries, who have a higher risk of morbidity and mortality than the general bariatric-surgery population."

About 750 US inpatient and outpatient bariatric centers are currently accredited by either the ASMBS or ACS. Other professional groups supporting accreditation and opposing the new CMS ruling include the Obesity Society, the American Society of Bariatric Physicians, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, and the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons, according to the statement.

Despite the setback, the ASMBS and the ACS said they plan to continue their now-combined accreditation effort, the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program.

Dr. Ponce is a consultant for Allergan and Covidien and is a speaker for W.L. Gore & Associates, which manufactures bioabsorbable staple line reinforcements. He is also the principal investigator of a trial sponsored by ReShape Medical investigating the use of an intragastric balloon system in obese patients.

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