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February 06, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa—Wellmark® Blue Cross® and Blue Shield® today announced that four Iowa hospitals and one South Dakota hospital have achieved the Blue Distinction® Centers Specialty Care program for bariatric surgery. These health care facilities have been designated either as Blue Distinction® Centers, for delivering quality care resulting in better overall outcomes for bariatric patients, or as Blue Distinction® Centers+ (plus), for delivering the same quality care as Blue Distinction Centers while also meeting key requirements for cost efficiency.


Provider/Health System City Gastric Banding Gastric Stapling
Iowa Methodist Medical Center Des Moines Blue Distinction Center+ Blue Distinction Center+
Mercy Medical Center - Des Moines Des Moines  Blue Distinction Center+  Blue Distinction Center+
Mercy Medical Center - North Iowa Mason City  Blue Distinction Center+  Blue Distinction Center+
University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics Iowa City  Blue Distinction Center+  Blue Distinction Center

South Dakota

Provider/Health System City Gastric Banding Gastric Stapling
Sanford Medical Center Sioux Falls Blue Distinction Center+ Blue Distinction Center+

To receive a Blue Distinction Center+ for Bariatric Surgery designation, which was a new designation added to the program this year, a health care facility must demonstrate success in meeting patient safety, as well as bariatric-specific quality measures, including complications and readmissions, for gastric stapling and/or gastric banding procedures.

A health care facility must also have earned national accreditations at both the facility level and the bariatric care-specific level, as well as demonstrate better cost efficiency relative to its peers. Quality is key: Only those facilities that first meet Blue Distinction’s nationally established, objective quality measures will be considered for designation as a Blue Distinction Center+.
“Bariatric surgeries are among the most common elective surgeries in the U.S., which provides a significant opportunity to improve quality and efficiency within the health care system,” said Timothy Gutshall, M.D., Wellmark vice president and chief medical officer. “Wellmark congratulates these facilities for their commitment to quality, and helping patients better manage their care through the Blue Distinction specialty care program.”
There were 179,000 bariatric surgeries performed in 2013, according to the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, and the average cost is more than $28,000 per episode, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. Furthermore, it is estimated that 72 million Americans are obese and 24 million suffer from morbid obesity, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The estimated annual health care costs of obesity-related illnesses are $190.2 billion, or nearly 21 percent of annual medical spending in the U.S., according to the Journal of Health Economics.
Research shows that facilities designated as Blue Distinction Centers and Blue Distinction Centers+ demonstrate better quality and improved outcomes for patients compared with their peers. On average, Blue Distinction Centers+ are also 20 percent or more cost efficient than non-Blue Distinction Center+ designated health care facilities.
Since 2006, the Blue Distinction Centers for Specialty Care program has helped patients find quality providers for their specialty care needs in the areas of bariatric surgery, cardiac care, complex and rare cancers, knee and hip replacements, spine surgery, and transplants while encouraging health care professionals to improve the care they deliver. For more information about the Blue Distinction Centers for Specialty Care program and for a complete listing of the designated facilities, please visit Site.