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Thursday, March 24, 2005

States weigh covering obesity surgery

Risks, costs debated in several states

HARTFORD, Connecticut (AP) -- Jacqueline Ezell says she felt as if she were drowning when she was rushed to the hospital four years ago.

At 288 pounds, doctors had already diagnosed her with diabetes, glaucoma and high cholesterol, all side effects of obesity. She also had heart problems.

"I couldn't breathe," Ezell said.

Doctors gave Ezell two options. She could seek a heart transplant, or have gastric bypass surgery. She chose the surgery.

The Preston woman recently told Connecticut lawmakers that she went from a size 26 to a size 6. The surgery also helped lower her cholesterol, and she was taken off a heart transplant waiting list. Now, the only medications she needs are for her heart condition.

"There's nothing I can't do now," she said.

A proposal is before Connecticut lawmakers that would require insurance companies to cover the surgery for people with a body-mass index of 30 or more if a doctor deems the surgery medically necessary. The BMI is a widely used formula based on height and weight.

The Connecticut proposal may not get off the ground this session because lawmakers are struggling to define under what medical conditions the surgery should be covered, said Sen. Joseph Crisco, a Woodbridge Democrat who chairs the legislative committee looking at the issue.

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