Bariatric Surgery Coverage Elimination

Part of the budget now on Governor Doyle's desk eliminates funding of bariatric surgery for the state run Medicaid programs, BadgerCare and the Medical Assistance Program.

The move would save the state $904,600 a year, but it's sending a message of despair.

"This was taken quite a while ago," says Doreen Carroll while looking at an old photograph, "This was when I was on a cruise. It's hard to believe that's me, I don't remember myself being that heavy."

Carroll weighed nearly 250 pounds just one year ago.

"My bed was raised every night, I would get up at 2 or 3 in the morning, throwing up," she recalls, "There were times when I was literally so sick at night that I would say 'I would rather die than live like this'."

Carroll had lost all hope. Until she had gastric bypass surgery. It's changed her life.

"The things I'm able to do now that I couldn't do before, how much more healthier I am now than I was before," she says, "It's night and day."

"This is my son David, my daughter Dominique," says Notre Wilson as she also points to family photographs.

Wilson has 4 young kids. She receives medical assistance and is scheduled for a gastric bypass next month.

"I have cramping in the legs, lower back pain," says Wilson, "I can't get certain jobs because of my physical appearance. Society isn't very nice to the obese."

Now, with the proposed budget cut, Wilson's afraid she won't get a second chance.

"I said I wanted to be around to see my kids grow up and have their kids," she says sadly.

Bariatric surgeons say it's a choice: you pay now, or you pay later.

"It's been shown that bariatric surgery, gastric bypass, will pay for itself in three years via cost savings elsewhere in the medical system," says UW bariatric surgeon, Dr. Michael Garren.

Carroll adds, "No matter what a surgeon or doctor says, that an insurance company has the right to take that away from somebody to live a normal life, it's not fair. It's unbelievable. It's more than I can fathom."

But Wilson can. And the thought is devastating.

"There's nothing I can do, I'm a single mother of four, I don't have the income to come out of pocket to pay for it," she says as she wipes tears from her eyes, "If I don't then I'm going to die at 30 some years old."

Governor Doyle has the option to line-item veto, but right now no word on which way he's leaning.

Lawmakers who support the cut say studies who the surgery is too dangerous.

But a recent article in the Wisconsin Medical Journal reports bariatric surgery is the only effective long-term treatment of morbid obesity.

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