WASHINGTON -- While the number of obese Americans persists at record levels, the number of patients undergoing weight loss surgery hasn't budged in a decade.
Last year, about 160,000 U.S. patients underwent weight loss surgery -- roughly the same number as in 2004. That's only about 1 percent of the estimated 18 million adults who qualify nationwide for the surgery, according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.
Surgeons blame a combination of factors for the stagnating numbers, including the economic downturn and a social stigma against resorting to surgery to treat weight problems. But insurance coverage is the largest hurdle, they say.
Nearly two-thirds of health plans sponsored by employers don't cover weight loss surgery, which can cost between $15,000 and $25,000.