Local Doctors Discuss Obesity As A Disease - WHLT 22 Connecting the Pine Belt

Local Doctors Discuss Obesity As A Disease

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HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Local surgeons are weighing on the topic of obesity after the American Medical Association declared the condition as a disease.

The news came last week.  More than one-third of adults in the U.S. are obese. Questions have been raised in the medical world if insurance companies will provide more coverage for weight loss surgeries. Local doctors tell us what they project will come in the future.

"I wanted to lose weight and be more healthy," said LaShawn Beard.

She said she's struggled with her weight for more than half of her life.

"Since Ii was 15 years old," she said.

Now at 42, she is finally seeing results of weight loss after she decided to undergo lap band surgery.

"I was looking for something where I could get it off and then keep the weight off," Beard said.

She works for Southern Surgery and Urology Center, which performs bariatric surgeries that aid in weight loss. She said a big problem most patients run into is that most insurance companies don't cover their surgeries.

"Probably 65 percent of them their insurance does not cover it," she said.

Dr. Wesley Girod says since the AMA is now declaring obesity as a disease, there may be some changes to insurance policies in the future.

"If  they're actually going to consider it a disease, maybe the insurance companies will chose to lighten up their requirements," he said.

Dr. William Whitehead of Hattiesburg Clinic said, he stopped performing gastric bypass surgeries because of the difficulties his patients received with insurance companies.  

"It's a business decision for them," he said. "It's not a personal decision for improving lifestyle."

He also agreed with Girod.  

"A disease is anything that impairs a body's function so from that stand point obesity is a disease," Whitehead said. 

As for Beard, she said her surgery changed her life.

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