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August 13th, 2010
07:58 AM ET

Weight loss surgery for S.C. government workers

South Carolina lawmakers are looking to save money in the future by paying for 100 of their workers to undergo weight loss surgery according to The Post and Courier.

The state Budget and Control board voted yesterday to approve a $2.4 million pilot program that would pay for gastric bi-pass and Lap-Band surgery under the state health plan. Applications for the program are going to be accepted on a first come, first approved basis. The surgeries are planned to begin after Jan. 1 and patients will be monitored for 18 months to determine if this program will actually save the state money.

The state hopes that by helping their workers lose excess weight, they will also cut excess costs. Obesity contributes to many costly health issues like diabetes and asthma. Significant weight loss can reduce and even eliminate these problems.

Do you think the government should pay for its workers to have weight loss surgery? Share your comments below and Kyra will read some during the 10am ET hour of the CNN Newsroom.

Read more about this story here.

Filed under: Anchors • CNN Newsroom • Kyra Phillips • What the...?
soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. Michael Armstrong Sr.

    Why should it a concern to the rest of the country on how South Carolina spends its money if it's Ok with the majority of the states people then I dont see why its even an issue .

    August 13, 2010 at 8:34 am |
  2. william

    Government or private employers should not be required to pay for weight loss surgery or programs. These people added the pounds without help, they can take it off the same way. If they cannor perform their jobs they should be fired.

    August 13, 2010 at 8:57 am |
  3. JCW

    Wow...our state has that much of a surplus of workers where they can devote money to this??? I live here in S.C. & I see & hear abt more ppl in the unemployment office than in a cubicle where needing surgery. Not that this isn't a good idea, but why don't they stop doing budget cuts on state jobs & focus on making our schools better before they invest $ in this. Ugh...JUST like SC.

    August 13, 2010 at 8:57 am |
  4. Walter Yeates

    I think South Carolina should consider putting their employees on work out programs. It'd be much safer, cheaper, and a better alternative than the surgery.

    August 13, 2010 at 8:59 am |
  5. Courtney Klemm

    I think its absurd that the government would pay for gastric by-pass surgery for its workers. I bet a majority of the employees haven't even tried losing weight on their own, or at least don't put enough effort into it. There are probably more people outside of the government who actually need this surgery for more serious health reasons. No way does it seem right to spend $2.4 million on such procedures when our country as a whole is in deep debt. Not to mention when we have poverty, homelessness, and hunger among our citizens.

    August 13, 2010 at 9:00 am |
  6. David

    spending $24,000 dollars on a surgery which may not solve the problem is a moronic idea. That same amount of money would purchase me food (healthy) for 4-5 years. The obesity problem in America is a problem of diet, not the lack of available surgery.

    That being said Michael is right, if South Carolina decides to go ahead with this plan seeing as I live in Iowa, I have no say(nor should I).

    August 13, 2010 at 9:00 am |
  7. James

    Lap band surgery is simply a band aid to poor life style choices. I think the money would be better spent in educating these people in healthy life style choices, the advise of a nutritionist, as well as a gym membership and a well rounded work out program customized for each person. Why not build a gym and give ALL South Carolina's employees access to it and the opportunity to change. If this is not an option, perhaps work with local businesses ( gyms ) to provide some type of discounted rate with trainers included.

    August 13, 2010 at 9:00 am |
  8. Bobby Webb

    I think it is GREAT that SC is making this available to its employees.

    I think it is time that Morbid Obesity be recognized by the insurance companies as a disease and make available this life saving procedure. I go to work everyday and have great insurance coverage but can't have any type of weight loss surgery. However, people on medicare and medicaid are afforded the oppoetunity to have the surgery....

    Great news for South Carolinans!

    August 13, 2010 at 9:01 am |
  9. T.Stryn

    This is more insane than a governor who "gets lost" hiking the Appalachian Trail!! How could the hard–working citizens of South Carolina stand for this? Your taxes spent to give some irresponsible individual a 'quick fix' rather than taking personal responsibility to lose weight....God help our country!

    August 13, 2010 at 9:02 am |
  10. Patie Beaty

    Why not use the $24,000.00 /person surgery to build a gym with personal trainers and allow ALL the employees to use the facilty ? It is safer and more cost effective for ALL state employees to lose weight....or pay for gym memberships and personal trainers for ALL employees...make it mandatory to be employeed or to be carried on state insurance....surely with over 60% of employees obese... they are not overworked!!!! I find it apalling that we cater to people to do what they know they need to do! We are a SICK society of slouth!

    August 13, 2010 at 9:03 am |
  11. Roger

    I like to say ,that is crazy . There is people out there starving ,no place to live.They make a big enough salery ,they should pay that on there own.If they do that why can't they help others out there with weight problems that can't afford to get that operation. Stop wasting moneys and if your going waste money , waste it on some people who have no food or place to live. I'm from Canada ,and thats not just happing in the States ,its happing all over the world .

    August 13, 2010 at 9:05 am |
  12. Bob O'bowey

    Looks like there's plenty of money in S.C. to be spent.

    August 13, 2010 at 9:07 am |
  13. Carlos

    It's going to be a waste of money since I'm pretty sure each of the 100 government workers will probably not follow the program correctly since this is a lifestyle change not a short-term weight loss surgery.

    August 13, 2010 at 9:07 am |
  14. Kelly Wind

    I live in South Carolina and do NOT agree with the government paying for workers to have gastric by-pass surgery! I do not see the government helping other people with other health issues that is not covered under some insurances! Myself and my family have dental issues and the only thing they say to me is they can help with extracting or simple fillings! My Children will need braces when they get older and was told there is NO help for this and it will cost us out of pocket Thousands of dollars, since we have 3 children! Where is the help for the poeple who are struggling in this economy, rather then the ones who work for the state and could get any type of insurance or medical care they need! I also do NOt believe that the Majority of the people in S.C. believe it is okay, only the ones who work for the State!

    August 13, 2010 at 9:13 am |
  15. Shawn Mitchell

    Just more wasteful government spending. Our kids are looking at school budget cuts, law enforcement and fire departments have to take pay cuts, because of budget cuts.
    humm, let me guess, how many government employee's who voted in favor are in line for the surgery.
    Government needs to spend more wisely.


    August 13, 2010 at 9:14 am |
  16. ali k

    As a Nurse Practitioner I have seen various results from such weight loss surgery.

    At the first it was required that the patient have to visit with a psychiatrist or psychologist who would then sign off on the surgery. The rationale was that if the patient wasn't motivated to do the required follow through then the chances of the surgery being successful was seriously compromised.

    This is not the case any more as it is seen as a lucrative practice by many surgeons.

    Howevewr, if potential surgical candidates had to invest significantly from their own monetary resources in order to have such surgery then I think the surgery would have a better chance of success.

    Having a successful weight loss surgery does indeed prevent future health problems such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, need for joint replacements.

    Too many Americans seem to be looking for "quick fixes." They watch TV and see advertisements for a variety of health issues. Fast food restaurants push a fat and calorie laden menu.

    The best way is to return to the basics? How about: learning to buy and prepare healthy food along with protion control, adfequate exercise, family and community support for a healthful lifestyle.

    If the requirement for personal monitary contribution for such surgery is implemented and provisin of intensive follow up care is done, then I am strongly in favor of such a program.

    ali k

    August 13, 2010 at 9:19 am |
  17. Patie Beaty

    If we can charge state smokers an additional $25/mo for health insurance, someone needs to prorate the cost of obesity healthcare and charge them a prorated additional cost. $2.4 million cost to the state for these surgeries would pay for all state employees to have personal trainers like JILLIAN to whoop their weight down. It is unacceptable that over 60% obesity is only addressed for the fattest 100 do committees process this idea to not include ALL obese people to GET MOVING!!!!!! MANDATORY attendance to nutrition, diet, exercise classes and personal trainers should be a stipulation of continued is not the safe answer or a wise decision by the committee...are they all on the top 100 eligible list???

    August 13, 2010 at 9:20 am |
  18. Gerald, RN

    Great investment in the employees' happiness, productivity, and money saved for the state in the long run. As a nurse that has assisted is Gastric Bypass and lap band procedures, I've learned of better success with Bypass, but seen reversal of conditions like hypertension and diabetes. It costs more money to treat the conditions. Hooray for South Carolina!! Take note other 'Obese' states!

    August 13, 2010 at 9:30 am |
  19. Michael Armstrong Sr.

    Just take all there donuts away and open up a gym .

    August 13, 2010 at 9:41 am |
  20. Alex B.

    I think this is ridiculous. I understand where they are coming from, in assuming that it will prevent future costs, but do they really need to spend the money? How about giving me the $2.4 million dollars and I will be their personal trainer until they loose the wait! How about spending the money on people that can't afford to eat, rather than the ones that take advantage of eating?!?!

    August 13, 2010 at 9:53 am |
  21. Danny

    It is an outrageous idea for a state to devote money for weight loss only for the morbid obese. If a weight loss program is going to be desginated, it should be designated for the entire population. I do not see how this is benefit the workforce but only adding an extra expense. $24,000 per fat person, I know the country is getting fat, but these efforts are ridiculous. Invest the money in a gym or other means of losing weight that are more cost effective.

    August 13, 2010 at 9:54 am |
  22. J.

    Still tax payers money is being spent for stupidity. These people have no respect for they help, so they have added their pounds on themselves. They need to care of that themselves Now the state can find better things with this money... Anyway, people are getting paid for being fat and use that money to have surgery, thats the way I see it! No offense..

    August 13, 2010 at 9:54 am |
  23. Luis

    Ok, so they get the surgery and the next month or so get a new job - where are the savings?

    August 13, 2010 at 9:55 am |
  24. Scott Stodden

    Kyra First And Foremost I Love You On CNN Your One Of The Best Journalists Ever And I Watch You Everyday! To Answer Your Question Absolutley Not The Goverment Of South Carolina Should Not Spend $2.4 Million To Pay For People To Get Gastric Bypass Surgey, I Thought We're In A Recession? Don't The State Of South Carolina Have Bills To Pay, Schools To Save, Im Sure This $2.4 Million Dollars Could Go To Alot Better Things Than This. If People Want To Lose Weight Then Go To The Gym, Exercise Or If You Want Surgery Pay For It Yourself!

    Scott Stodden (Freeport,Illinois)

    August 13, 2010 at 9:57 am |
  25. Shelly

    I think it is a terrific idea. I personally know people who had this surgery after trying everything else. Health problems such as diabetes and hypertension went away as the weight dropped off. Healthcare facilities should be the first to jump on this, especially the ones that are self-insured. It would cut down on a lot of their payments on trying to combat these diseases if they could be prevented in the first place.

    August 13, 2010 at 10:00 am |
  26. allison

    Are they kidding? Guess what kind of competition is going to occur when they offer 'free' surgery to that Top 100 population of overweight folks: To insure they'll make that cut (no pun intended), these folks are going to gorge even more. I'm a big believer in preventative medicine, but state taxpayers should NOT have to pay for such a radical 'solution' to a lifetime of bad habits. Are they going to start footing the bill for lung transplants for chain-smokers now dying from COPD? Why isn't South Carolina using these funds instead for preventative programs that are actually effective?

    August 13, 2010 at 10:03 am |
  27. Geneva Hamilton

    Ok Kyra, love the leopard print pumps and I 'need' a pair just like them (lol). Where did you get them? Hopefully its a national store because I am in Plano (Dallas) Tx.


    August 13, 2010 at 10:04 am |
  28. Tammie

    I think North Carolina's move to provide gastric bypass is brilliant! Diets and a gym membership do not help all obese patients. I became obese after several injuries and countless surgeries over the last 10 years. My company does not cover weight loss surgery (they are self insured). I've had 3 orthopedic docs and my internist appeal and tell them I'll need more surgeries and medical treatment if I don't have it. Last year my company had to pay out $80,000 for total knee replacement of one knee and I need the other done. Eventually I will also need more back surgery, am on CPAP and about 8 prescriptions I wouldn't need if they would just spend $18,000 once for me to have the surgery. Oh and by the way.... I have lost a few pounds here and there but once you get past a certain point, diet is not effective.

    August 13, 2010 at 10:05 am |
  29. Steve

    $ 2.4 million for 100 gastric bypass surgeries hailed as a good idea? For that money the state could purchase 5,000 TrekDesk Treadmill Desks and let people walk slowly all day while they work. We have become a nation too dependent upon surgeries and prescription medications. Considering that medical care represents 21% or our GDP we should be concerned to know that less than 2% of $2.6 trillion spent on medical care is focused on prevention. We have to use a little more common sense in our approach. Stop obesity before it happens and help those struggling with this problem by allowing them more opportunities to walk throughout the day.

    August 13, 2010 at 10:05 am |
  30. Larraine,Abingdon, Maryland

    For all of you people who think that weight loss is simply all about eating less and exercising, I have NEWS for you. Morbid obesity is a disease! People who are morbidly obese often eat no more or even less than normal people. I was one of those people. In November 2008, I had weight loss surgery. My husband was a Federal Worker and I used his insurance. This was the best investment my insurance company could have made. I was on the verge of diabetes. That problem has ended. I had to have the surgery in order to lose enough weight to have my knees replaced. I did that last July. Now I'm able to do more than just swim. I'm up to 26,000lbs in weights plus I cycle. Over the years I gained and lost and gained and lost again. I was ALWAYS hungry no matter what. Now I can handle food. I'm a NORMAL person now. I still have to work on my weight, but now I have the tools for it. For all of you who can simply stop eating, congratulations. The morbidly obese person next to you has a PHYSICAL problem!

    August 13, 2010 at 10:05 am |
  31. Lori

    I just watched the interview with a SC senator talking about gastric surgery for its obese state employees...stupid idea...I have a friend who had the surgery a few years back. I was shocked to see her this summer....she has started to gain the weight back, and her kids are heavier than ever....eating habits in the family haven't changed since before she had the surgery, even though before you have the surgery you have to go to nutrition classes and try to lose some weight on your own. Until the kids are taught portion control, healthy eating choices and the importance of exercise daily...they will grow up with the same weight issues as their mom.

    The key to weigh loss is to eat less, eat healthy choices and exercise....I've been battling my weight my whole life...
    I know. When I've done the above, I haven't had weight issues...when I have splurged and eaten too much unhealthy choices and have skipped exercise, that is when I have had weight gains.

    Why doesn't the state of SC try to educate the whole state...both government workers, kids in school, and maybe healthy lifestyle literature mailed to all its people...better use of the money.

    Our daughter moved from MA to go to school in SC 3 years ago...she struggles to find any food in the cafeteria to eat...everything is dripping in bacon fat, smothered with gravy or fried...freshman year, she had no concept of what a "fryolator" was...her roommates asked if we didn't fry chicken, how did we cook it! 'Grill...broil....bake!' was her reply New concept to the south!

    August 13, 2010 at 10:06 am |
  32. NPK

    Like the saying can force the horse to river but you can not have it drink out of it. What do you expect this obese workers to do once they are back to "normal" weight? I will tell you what they will do...they will continue the same old habit. So in short, you can make an obese person look not obese but can not make them maintain their weight. They will need the personal will to change. They will a complete change in life style. They will need to do it the hard way so that they can feel the pain hence would not like to get back to being obese.

    August 13, 2010 at 10:07 am |
  33. Jennifer Johnson

    I tried many different diets, but never surgery, and have found relief in a program, which is described below. I have been maintaining a 70-pound weight loss for over 6 years. I believe that it has worked because the mental component is addressed as well as the physical component of recovery. Several members have come into the program after having had surgery that worked for a little while but then no longer worked because the mental obsession behind food addiction was not addressed.

    The program is an organization called Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous (FA). FA is a Twelve Step recovery program offering a solution for anyone suffering from any form of food addiction including overeating, bulimia, under-eating, or food obsession.

    More info about the program can be found on the website: foodaddicts dot org.

    August 13, 2010 at 10:08 am |
  34. Ashley

    How will allowing only 100 of thousands of government employees help with a state wide weight loss? This will only hurt the SC state government in showing the resdients that its ok to get morbidly obese on your own, the government will bail you out. They should spend money on education. The children are the future, not middle aged overweight workers.

    August 13, 2010 at 10:16 am |
  35. Roger, NY

    The elected officials in this country have lost their minds. With $2.4 million, think of the gym facilities that could be built instead which could serve an even greater % of the local population. Surgery is NOT the answer, but changing one's life is. People need to take responsibility for their physical condition & stop looking for an easy way out. Getting fit is the result of both a Physical & Mental change in one's being. While I believe Genetics play 'some' role in obesity, there is no reason why people can’t significantly improve the condition on their own. I am partially disabled yet weight-train on a daily basis and have no patience for people who want everything handed to them.

    August 13, 2010 at 10:59 am |
  36. Lee

    Amazing! They can't find something better to do with $2.4million? Oh let's help people who more than likey put themselves in the obese position. I am very well aware it can be genetic and medical but the majority of this country is obese on their own accord. Do we really need 10 ways to eat a candy bar? Do we need all these different fast food places?

    Yay lets help bail out the obese...why not use this money for education or those out of work who need assistance. People need to learn to get off their asses and work for the body they want and not expect a little fairy to sprinkle dust on them and do it for them..well in this case SC is the fairy.

    August 13, 2010 at 11:42 am |
  37. Jodi

    I work on a surgical unit in Virginia that works with Gastric Bypass patients post surgically. I myself am not battling obesity but I believe in this process. When nothing else works for individuals that are willing to not give up on fighting the complications that come with obesity. Weight loss surgery can be a tool to aid in this fight. Good for SC for making health and weight loss a priority.

    August 13, 2010 at 11:50 am |
  38. Eve

    If the governing body of South Carolina decides to offer weight loss surgery in order to reduce employee insurance rates and reduce the rate of incidents due to health related issues, then so be it! No one is requiring the State of South Carolina or private companies to pay for this, this is an option that will be given to State employees, not the general public! Read the article people! It clearly states that the cost of surgery will be covered by the state health plan!! Many insurance companies cover the cost of gastric bypasses and Lap bands because they have been deemed medically necessary. The cost of this surgery is NOT going to raise the overall cost of health coverage in S.C. but repeat trips to a doctor's office for the same thing over and over will! It's much cheaper for the state to cover the cost of surgery and well care visits than it is to cover the cost of repeat visits and unnecessary medical treatments and testing for something that can be resolved. It's common sense!

    August 13, 2010 at 12:29 pm |
  39. Cierra Chitwood

    Absurd! Absolutely ridiculous that the state would even consider a bill like this. You want a plan that works? its called not spending 2.4 million on people who have added those extra pounds on their own, and how about giving them a discount to the gym and a nutritionist to show them how to eat healthier. You're telling me that we cannot approve a bill for the health of those who are sick from the 911 catastrophe, yet the state of SC is providing this for those who couldn't take care of their own bodies to begin with? This government is failing at all costs.

    August 13, 2010 at 12:34 pm |
  40. pat

    This is like throwing money into a black hole. Total craziness.
    People in the US have better resources and options than almost
    anywhere on the planet.
    People must take responsibility for their own life, health and choices.
    You don't deserve that big mac, you want it.

    August 13, 2010 at 2:41 pm |
  41. lee

    i can't wait to see the gov of ever state solve all our problems by spending us out of all our money then we will all lose weight, because we want have any money to buy any thing.

    would be better to tell lose it or ??????
    of course i don't live in that state but they do recieve fed money all so.
    i do pay that tax thank you for place to let others what i, we, others think.

    older lee

    August 13, 2010 at 4:01 pm |
  42. LaurenInDC

    I'm from SC and I think this is a poor decision. I really hope voters are paying attention. The unemployment rate in SC is high and has had a very negative impact on the economy. Instead of attempting to help a minority of the population, this money should be used to open government run health centers. Creating a space where state workers can work out and learn about nutrition will not only promote healthier lifestyles but create jobs! Who's idea was this anyway?

    August 13, 2010 at 5:14 pm |
  43. Trim Toni

    I think this is wonderful. This is a great tool. I had this surgery & it has been successful. I had no success with any diet & com-morbidities continued to pile up against me. I believe it will add years onto my life. I am happy that SC is trying this pilot program then maybe insurance companies will be forced into paying for this procedure. I know my 169 lb weight loss has led me to a better quality of life. If we could only make it a requirement for insurance companies to follow up with surgical skin removal to help those of us with the yards and yards of extra hanging skin. I know I'd donate every inch of my extra skin to a burns institute if I could afford to pay for the surgery.

    August 15, 2010 at 4:11 pm |
  44. james

    As a fit SC resident, this idea disgusts me.
    Set up a gym for government employees and allow them full access. Have a room there with nutrition literature.
    I'd even go so far as to consider mandating a level of fitness before paying for fat people to have surgery for their luxurious wastefulness and bad lifestyles.

    August 15, 2010 at 5:34 pm |
  45. Jean

    What are the weight guide lines? Too heavy for the job? Bye, bye!
    South Carolina is in the red. Taxpayers are sick and tired of paying for
    ridiculous waste and spending. We need to clean house in the SC Legislature if this is what they come up with! Who are these people?!!

    August 16, 2010 at 2:06 pm |
  46. me

    What gets me is they have cut bus service back to where children will have to be on buses for over 4 hours a day. But will pay 2.4 mil to give someone this surgery. Children are our future, 4 hours a day will significantly reduce their activity, so when they are older and overweight from riding around on bus for over 20 hours a week who is going to pay for their gastric by-pass?

    August 19, 2010 at 8:43 am |
  47. Gary Cooper

    isnt this why we have insurance and if you back up from the table and walk or exersise you wouldnt be so fattt

    August 25, 2010 at 10:34 am |