BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s health insurer for state workers, teachers and retirees will soon cover weight loss surgery for people who are obese, under a bill signed into law by Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Sen. Regina Barrow, a Baton Rouge Democrat, had previously tried to get the Office of Group Benefits to cover gastric bypass surgery and other types of weight loss surgeries, to lessen the health conditions associated with obesity. But lawmakers had raised concern about the costs.

Barrow made some adjustments to the legislation and won unanimous support from the House and Senate in the recently ended legislative session. The governor agreed to the idea and signed the bill, which will take effect Aug. 1.

To be eligible for the health procedure, members of the Office of Group Benefits insurance system must have a body mass index of at least 40 — or 35 or more if they have two qualifying health conditions. They’ll have to pay 20% of the costs for preoperative services and a $2,500 co-pay and other charges for the surgery.

Though thousands of workers or retirees are expected to be eligible, the law caps the number of weight loss surgeries to no more than 300 per year. The health insurer won’t cover skin removal surgery associated with the medical procedure.

The health insurance benefit expansion is estimated to cost the Office of Group Benefits more than $5.7 million in the upcoming budget year. The increases will be lower in later years, according to a financial analysis of the bill, because of anticipated savings associated with the improved health conditions of those who receive the bariatric surgery.


The bill is filed as Senate Bill 150.