The weight-loss surgeries has been included under the central government health scheme (CGHS) list. The procedure will be available free of cost to the beneficiaries.
The guidelines of the US National Institute of Health will be used for select candidates for the procedure. The new guidelines provide for reimbursement of surgery charges to patients who have BMI more than or equal to 40 kg/m2. If the person has obesity related co-morbidities, for example hypertension, cardio-vascular disease and diabetes, then surgery can be considered even if the BMI is more than or equal to 35 kg/m2. The government has fixed a package rate of Rs 2.25 lakh per person for such a surgery. In India, an estimated 200 million people suffer from weight-related issues.
The BMI of a healthy individual is anywhere between 18-23 kg/m2, said Dr Deep Goel, director, department of minimal access, bariatric surgery at B L Kapoor Hospital. "The government seems to have finally realised that weight-loss surgery is not a mere cosmetic procedure. It is a life-saver for very obese patients," said Dr Pradeep Chowbey, director, Max Institute of minimal access, metabolic and bariatric surgery.
"The decision will help those unable to afford the procedure on their own. Also, it will force private insurance companies to re-think their policy against reimbursement for weight loss surgery," Dr Bhatia, who chairs the bariatric surgery unit at Sir Ganga Ram hospital, added.
Experts, however, warn that people should not rush to undergo the surgery just because it will be reimbursed or they want to look better. There are many patients who seek to undergo the procedure to look better or youngsters seeking to get married. One needs to think over the consequences of surgery and diet restrictions before deciding to undergo the same. Also, a wrong surgery conducted by an inexperienced doctor can put the patient at risk for leak and death.