HealthDay News — For individuals in a weight management program, paying out-of-pocket is not associated with a significant difference in weight loss compared to that seen for employees with insurance coverage, according to a report published in Obesity.

Jamie D. Ard, MD, from the Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and colleagues compared 1-year outcomes from an academic medical weight management program for 480 employees with insurance coverage (covered) vs 463 nonemployees who paid out of pocket (self-pay). Data on demographics and weight were obtained from medical records, and socioeconomic status was estimated using neighborhood demographics.

The researchers found that, compared with self-pay patients, covered patients were younger (46.5 ± 10.6 vs 51.6 ± 12.5 years) and had a lower body mass index (38.5 ± 7.5 vs 41.3 ± 9.9 kg/m²) (both P < .001). Self-pay patients lived in neighborhoods with higher annual per capita income (+$4,545; P < .001). Covered patients had lower program dropout (12.7% vs 17.6%; P = .03). However, there was no significant between-group difference in 12-month weight loss in adjusted models (loss of 13.4% vs 13.6% for covered and self-pay patients, respectively; P = .69).

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“Data from an academic medical weight management program suggest that individuals with access to insurance coverage for nonsurgical obesity treatment have lower levels of attrition and similar levels of participation and outcomes as those who pay out of pocket,” the researchers write.

Two authors disclosed financial ties to Nestle Health Sciences, which partially funded the study.

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Ard JD, Emery M, Cook M, Hale E, Frain A, Lewis KH, Song E. Skin in the game: does paying for obesity treatment out of pocket lead to better outcomes compared to insurance coverage? Obesity (Silver Spring). 2017 Jun;25(6):993-996. doi: 10.1002/oby.21837.