The Atlantic

The Obesity Cure Is Out of Reach in the Heaviest States

Bariatric surgery works, but hundreds of thousands of eligible patients can’t get it.
Source: Jason Reed / Reuters

In Mississippi, more than 37 percent of adults are obese, making it the second-most obese state in the nation. But Mississippi is also one of two states, along with Montana, that doesn’t cover bariatric surgery in its Medicaid program, which serves 760,000 people.

One popular type of bariatric surgery, the gastric sleeve, costs between $20,000 and $35,000 without insurance, experts told me. It shrinks the stomach to about the size of a banana, changing the body’s hunger hormones and reducing a person’s natural weight—one they don’t have to starve themselves to stick to. For the morbidly obese, diet and exercise don’t usually have this same effect on their own. (People who lost for example, tended to gain it all back.)

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