Month: August 2017
Whenever you are dealing with insurance issues it is important to have a general understanding of insurance ins and outs. The Obesity Action Coalition has a good general guide to the insurance process here. If you are having issues with out of network, out of area, or insurance appeals and denials for Duodenal Switch, there may be some additional assistance from two individuals who have had the Duodenal Switch procedure themselves. We are grateful that they have provided assistance throughout the years to the Duodenal Switch community. The following is their statement on insurance.
The majority of insurance companies are in the business of making money (for profit). They can deny requests for preauthorization with impunity. These denials are often complexly worded and difficult to comply with and overcome, and are definitely overwhelming to the patient, and the busy surgeon’s office. The vast majority of patients faced with demanding if not impossible to achieve prerequisites, or denial of the request for preauthorization simply give up, and the insurance companies pocket the savings.
If you find yourself facing impossible pre-op hurdles, or a denial, we urge you to appeal, and to seek assistance in preparing the appeal. You can hire an attorney, of course, but there is an informal and free resource we suggest that you investigate as well.
If you go to BariatricFacts.org (a non-profit, patient-run site), you will find individuals who are long-term DS postops, and patient advocates. They have been helping patients, pro bono (for free), for over 10 years. They will help you draft your appeal letters, provide supporting medical and legal documentation, and prepare draft letters of medical necessity to be reviewed and signed by your surgeon supporting your appeal. They will not represent you directly, but they will help you best represent yourself. in many cases it is necessary to exhaust all internal appeals (because the insurance companies are unlikely to overrule themselves), and then file for external review, where independent reviewers often overrule improper denials. If you join and then post on BariatricFacts.org asking for help, you will be connected with them and you can decide if you want their help.
Please note that this is just a suggestion. It is neither legal nor medical advice, nor a guaranty regarding their services, and you should always consider getting legal advice and assistance from an attorney who will represent you directly. The members at BariatricsFacts.org will help you draft your own letters, but will not be your legal or medical representatives; you will be required to do a fair amount of your own work on your appeals, and to sign them yourself.
It is suggested that before or at the same time as you contact the resources suggested at the site, you gather as much of the following information as you can:
- A copy of your Evidence of Coverage, which is the usually 100+ page insurance contract between your employer and the insurance company, which you can obtain it from your HR department. If you are self-insured, it will be available directly from your insurance company. Note: it is NOT the Summary of Benefits – it needs to be the contract itself.
- If your insurance is through an employer, you need to determine whether your plan is self-funded or fully-funded. Your rights are significantly different under the two types of plans.
- If your insurance company has a separate bariatric surgery policy, provide a copy of that, too.
- A copy of your surgeon’s request for preauthorization, which provides the ICD-10 and CPT codes submitted.
- A copy of your denial letter, including the section regarding your appeal rights.
* It is strongly recommended that you obtain a copy of your surgeon’s LOMN (letter of medical necessity) before it is submitted to your insurer or for external review, so we can assist your busy surgeon in making the strongest possible case for you.
Don’t be deterred by a denial. It is unfortunately more common than it should be, but it can often be overcome if you meet the requirements for bariatric surgery, if you get help navigating the process.
LIFE BEFORE AND AFTER DUODENAL SWITCH SURGERY
Life before surgery seems like a lifetime ago for both my wife and I. Being extremely overweight is not only a burden on your general health but a burden on your lifestyle in general. You have the awful label of being called obese, or morbidly obese. This is such a wonderful word that makes you feel as if you have been judged a misfit in society. We were both overweight all of our lives and had done all of the diets known on the planet throughout the years. Some worked a little some not at all and we always found ourselves back to where we were before and usually larger than that. The main focus though as we were getting older was our health. For Theresa it was very difficult. Along with being over 400 pounds she had a severe case of asthma which caused her episodes where she felt she was going to suffocate. She also had very little muscle mass which made it very difficult to get up and down from seating or lying positions. Theresa had her surgery in February of 2014 and not a moment too soon. If she had done nothing it is a good chance that she was facing a horribly short future. She also has a slight heart murmur which did not bode well for a person with her weight. She did not have diabetes thank goodness but her A1C was on the rise as was her BP. She did have sleep apnea as well and had to have a CPAP machine.
I was also severely overweight, my highest weight was nearly 400 pounds and on surgery day I was 355 pounds. I was also under the illusion that I had more control over my weight and that once Theresa had her surgery I would just be able to diet and exercise my way to a healthy weight. I was able to do this in my younger years to a certain extent and I was naive enough
to think I could continue to do so. How wrong I was. I had found that no matter how much diet and exercise I did my weight would drop a bit at first but then stall and I would have to essentially starve to lose any more and of course that just makes for a bad outcome. My A1C shot up to 7.6 and this was with 1000mg of metformin a day! My BP was very high with both numbers over 100, well over. This is with a high dose of BP meds. I had a severe case of sleep apnea and could not even consider sleeping without a CPAP machine with a high pressure. I have an artificial hip that was being burdened by my 350 pound plus frame and would probably need to be replaced sooner rather than later. My future was not looking good. Dying before I was 60 seemed like a reality for me and that is not the future I was hoping for. The decision to have weight loss surgery for the both of us was tough. You of course hear the nay sayers spout what a cop out it is and it’s the easy way out! You are just weak and just simply need to not eat hamburgers, French fries and donuts. Just stick with non-fat and low calories and you will reach the promised land. What a load of BS.
Once you wrap your head around the fact that your body is wired in such a way that it will always seek a higher weight every time you lose weight, it’s time to consider the type of surgery. Everyone has heard of the Gastric bypass and that seemed to be the path at the time of Theresa’s surgery. The thing about Theresa and what I admire very much is her persistence and her ability to research to the point where a decision is spot on. She looked at all of the four possible surgeries and quickly realized that the Duodenal Switch was a no brainer. It had the greatest measure of success in the long term as well as short term. Reading about the process and talking to others who have had the surgery it became clear that it was the right choice. Finding out where to go and have the surgery was a real challenge. We were lucky to find Dr. Ara Keshishian and have the ability to travel to his location to have the surgery.
Theresa’s Stats Rodney’s Stats
Surgery Weight: 410 Surgery Weight: 355 Pounds
Total Weight Loss: 215 pounds Total Weight Loss: 170 Pounds
Surgery Type: Duodenal Switch Surgery Type: Duodenal Switch
Surgery Date: February 2014 Surgery Data: May 2016
Surgeon: Dr. Ara Keshishian Surgeon: Dr. Ara Keshishian
Life after surgery is an amazing series of challenges, changes, and a journey that transforms your life in a huge way. For Theresa, it was freedom. Freedom from the overbearing weight she was carrying that kept her from essentially moving or doing anything but staying at home. We did very little outside of the house before surgery. Only the necessities of shopping and keeping up the house on the inside and out. Even that was difficult and went by the wayside all too often. Of course eating out was easier than going to the grocery store and that made the scale just go higher. After surgery, Theresa began to lose weight and you could see day by day the changes. After the first month, you could see a dramatic change not only in her look but the fact that she was moving again! She had dropped 35 pounds in that first month and it made a huge difference. As the weight kept coming off over the next few months we began doing things we have not done before. We started to do a lot of walking and a lot more things around the house that needed to be done. Shopping became a breeze and we ate out a lot less. The dramatic change was in her health. A number of changes for the better were happening on that front. The main one and a huge relief was the asthma. It simply was no longer there. She was no longer short on breath and was simply out moving me! I could barely keep up with her. She also had a bad case of psoriasis which before surgery she could do nothing about. Since the surgery it has disappeared. It might be due to the increased in vitamins, particularly the D vitamin. Her sleep apnea went away and now she is healthy and happy. It is almost difficult to describe the changes until you see them for yourself. For Theresa it has been a life changing experience that has transformed the both of us in ways we never imagined. Theresa eats a normal diet and after 3 ½ years post op she fluctuates about 5 pounds either way. It is amazing.
For me it was not what I expected. What I mean by that is, learning to eat is a challenge. With the Duodenal Switch you are not only eating less, but what you eat is tremendously important to the success of the transformation. With the other surgeries, Lap Band, Bypass and Sleeve you do not have the degree of malabsorption. You simply eat less and you lose weight, but you are still essentially “on a diet”. With the Duodenal Switch you have to consider the malabsorption and think protein first and for most. Once you get past the first month of eating small amounts and what you can while your innards heal you need to learn what to eat and is it enough protein. You may also have to contending with the fact that you have an aversion to foods you ate before. I, for one, could not even eat cheese, and chicken. I pretty much lived on scallops, crab, shrimp and protein drinks for the first three months. Nuts were also a good source of the protein when you get to that stage. This does change and things do go back to normal as far as the taste changes, but it takes a few months. The weight in that first month pretty much peeled off. I was dropping like a pound a day. It was incredible. You think that this is going to be a breeze and you will drop it all in no time! Then that 4 week somewhat of a stall occurs. From what I can tell, everyone experiences it in one form or another. It freaks you out because you start to think about the past where you would work your butt off and either gain or drop and ounce or two. But I was lucky, my wife had gone though it two years before me so she was there to explain that it was normal. The whole “this is a journey thing”, and she was right! At the time though I was listening to the negative voice in my head from the past. That is where the support from the many groups come in. You see that pretty much everyone has the same ups and downs and then your body gives up the farm and you drop a bunch of weight in a weeks’ time. There is really a lot of science behind it. Researching and reading about this particular surgery and how it works will benefit you while you go through the process. Another important thing we face with this surgery is the necessity of Vitamins. Thank goodness for my wife and the DS groups and of course my surgeon. You will not be without knowledge if you actively join the different groups and do your research on the vitamins. I am still learning about what my body needs and am looking forward to my labs in the next month to see where I may be deficient. I have also come to realize the importance of drinking water and avoiding dehydration. I never used to drink it much before the Duodenal Switch, but since the surgery I find it aids heavily in the success if you drink it and drink a lot of it.
To conclude this has been a journey and one I wish I could have done a lot sooner in life, but it is never too late. Today Theresa and I are at weights that we are happy with and our bodies are happy with. We are more active then we have ever been before together. No more days idle in front of the television with large amounts of fast food and drinks. That is what we used to look forward too. Now we cannot wait until we go out and do something. We are not running marathons or anything but we are active and enjoy being so. We no longer have the ailments we had before surgery. Theresa’s asthma is practically nonexistent, living in the northwest with fires in the summer she may have a bout or two. Nothing even close to what she has before and a simple inhale and its gone. Both of us no longer need a CPAP! The freedom to simply lay your head on the pillow and sleep is amazing and wonderful. All of the medication we had prescribed for us are gone as well. My A1C was 5 on my last set of labs and 5.3 on the one before that. Theresa’s is the same and has been for three years. BP is normal and my hip is holding steady. Oh, and another cool thing about it is you can actually shop for clothes anywhere! Your sizes will shrink but we have found we have become quite the clothes horses since losing all this weight. It makes it fun to be able to fit into a size you haven’t seen since who knows when.
Life is always a challenge for many reasons but to remove the burden of the weight simplifies things just a bit. It is a decision we will never regret and wished we had made a long time ago. We both owe our lives firstly, to having Duodenal Switch surgery. Secondly, and most important – was in seeking out the best surgeon we could find, and that was without a doubt, Dr. Ara Keshishian. As a surgeon he is thorough, meticulous, constantly learning and keeping up on the latest research;as a person he is easy to talk to, very approachable, and genuinely cares about his patients before, during and after the surgery process. We could not imagine choosing anyone else.