Obesity is not a cosmetic problem, but a disease that needs treatment, but medical professionals are struggling to cure it to resolve cost issues, said Professor Koh Hye-jin of Kyungpook National University Hospital on Saturday.
Professor Koh Hye-jin of Kyungpook National University Hospital highlighted the need for health insurance for treatments related to obesity during the Korean Society for the Study of Obesity (KSSO) 53rd Annual Spring Conference, held online and offline at the Sheraton Seoul D Cube City Hotel on Saturday.
“Obesity requires more hours of treatment than general diseases and requires counseling and education, but it is difficult to treat patients in clinical practice because health insurance does not cover obesity treatment,” said Professor Koh during the 53rd Annual Spring Conference of the Korean Society for the Study of Obesity (KSSO) conducted online and offline.
Since obesity is a chronic disease that requires long-term and ongoing drug treatment, the lack of such reimbursement puts patients at a significant cost burden, she added.
Professor Koh stressed that the government should set the cost of medical consultations as cost burdens prevent patients from visiting hospitals.
“Obese patients have social and economic problems with various medical complications,” said Koh. “Therefore, medical professionals must take into account the socio-economic environment of the patient and also listen to the medical history of obese patients. The consultation time is inevitably longer than when treating general patients.”
However, Koh pointed out that there is no insurance coverage for treating obese patients.
“Increasing consultation time when treating obese patients can reduce the number of patients treated and make it difficult to properly treat obese patients,” said Koh. “If the government sets an advisory fee, the medical staff can better treat patients and provide adequate treatment for obesity.”
Koh also pointed out the need for nutritional advice after metabolic surgery for obesity.
“Nutritional advice is required after metabolic surgery for obesity. Since there are no fixed medical fees, it is not easy for medical professionals to seek advice from a nutritionist,” she said.
With health officials not reimbursing drugs used to treat obesity, patients spend excessive medical expenses and feel stressed, she noted.
Because there is no reimbursement system and the price of obesity treatments varies between hospitals and pharmacies, patients usually look for cheaper places to find the medication.
“In overweight patients, we try to treat other underlying diseases and give them medication so that they can lose as much weight as possible before a metabolic surgery,” said Koh. “Despite the change in weight, the patient wanted to discontinue the medication because of the cost burden.”
Professor Koh also stressed the need to reimburse excessively loose skin after significant weight loss for ultra-obese patients.
“When someone loses 30 to 40 kg, their skin can sag, which in turn can require plastic surgery,” she said. “The government offers breast cancer patients health insurance for breast reconstruction. It should also reimburse obese patients who have excessively loose skin after weight loss.”