Andy Kim is a former GOVERNING staff writer.
Statistically, South Carolina has one of the worst rates of obesity in the country. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, almost 63 percent of the state's adults are overweight or obese – approximately 2 percentage points higher than the national average. The Charleston, S.C., Post and Courier reports that in an effort to achieve long-term savings on health care for overweight state workers, the state Legislature has approved a pilot program that puts $2.4 million toward bariatric surgeries – such as gastric bypass operations – for state employees. The pilot will start accepting applications from state employees' physicians in early January 2011. Only 100 non-Medicare eligible state workers will be accepted into the program on a first-come, first-serve basis. After monitoring the participants for a year and a half, the pilot program will check for complications and see if the surgeries lead to health-care savings. The state covered bariatric surgery for state workers from 2001 to 2004, but the procedures were deemed too risky and not cost-effective.