Weight loss surgery is changing lives and improving the health of people who previously struggled to lose weight. Those who have lost a significant amount of weight after their procedure realize that weight loss surgery changes their relationship with food and helps them make healthier choices.
While weight loss surgery is a safe and effective treatment option, far too many people who qualify for these life-altering procedures assume bariatric surgery is financially beyond their reach. It's important to know that weight loss surgery could be much more affordable than you realize.
Understanding the Basics of Weight Loss Surgery
Weight loss surgery helps those struggling to lose a significant amount of weight by significantly limiting the amount they can eat at any given time. Some procedures also adjust the number of calories and amount of nutrients absorbed during the digestive processes, also contributing to weight loss.
For those who qualify, the long-term success of bariatric surgery requires commitment and significant lifestyle modifications. Not everyone is an ideal candidate for surgical intervention. Those who may qualify for weight loss surgery include:
- Men and women between the ages of 18 and 65 who are at least 100 pounds overweight (with exceptions)
- Those within the weight range whose repeated efforts to lose weight through diet and exercise have been unsuccessful
- Overweight individuals who have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher
- Those with a BMI of 35 or higher who also live with serious weight-related health issues including diabetes, high blood pressure, or severe sleep apnea
- Those who meet the requirements and are committed to making lifestyle changes
When considering the cost of bariatric surgery, it's important to consider the benefits gained and the impact of those benefits. People struggling with obesity commonly spend more in any given year on doctor visits and medications than those living at a healthy weight, and also have a higher risk of developing costly health complications, physically costly and financially.
The Prices of Weight Loss Surgery Can Vary Significantly
Most weight loss surgeries are considered minimally invasive. That's because many surgeons are performing these procedures laparoscopically. Laparoscopic surgery translates to smaller incisions, less scarring, and a shorter recovery period. When available, robot-assisted laparoscopic surgery translates the motion of your surgeon's hands into smaller, more precise movements.
The cost of weight loss surgery is determined by the type of procedure selected, the surgical method, and is influenced by your geographic location. In areas of the country where the weight loss procedures are more common, you will likely find the costs more competitive. Procedures performed at a surgical center are often priced a bit lower than those performed in a hospital setting. The following examples explain the common surgical options and their price ranges:
Price Range $11,500 - $26,000
Your surgeon will remove approximately 75 percent of your stomach. The portion remaining leaves the organ shaped like a tube or sleeve. While the gastric sleeve was originally devised as the first step in a two-phase procedure, the gastric sleeve is commonly successful on its own. While a significant portion of the stomach is removed, the basic stomach structure remains the same. Since the remaining portion of your stomach is considerably smaller, you will feel full on small amounts of food. The gastric sleeve allows you to lose 50 percent or more of your excess weight without rerouting digestive processes.
Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass
Price Range $15,500 -$35,000
With the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, a small pouch is created at the top of your stomach. One section of your small intestine is attached to the newly created stomach pouch while the other end is attached to an area of your small intestine. The food you eat flows directly from the new stomach pouch to the small intestine. Only the newly created area of your stomach receives food, but the main part of your stomach continues to make digestive acids. These digestive enzymes continue to be excreted through the restructured area of your intestinal tract. Fewer calories are absorbed because the food you eat bypasses a portion of your small intestine.
Price Range $22,000 -$42,000
As with a gastric sleeve, your surgeon will restructure your stomach into the shape of a tube. Your lower intestine is then divided, leaving only a few feet of intestine accessible to digestive enzymes. The first part of your intestine, the duodenum, is divided and attached to the lower part of your small intestine. Weight loss is achieved by two functions, the restriction of consumption and malabsorption of calories and nutrients. You will also benefit from the dramatic decrease in ghrelin, the hormone that regulates appetite. The rerouting of the intestine helps bring food to the area sooner than before surgery, which triggers the release of appetite-suppressing hormones. The duodenal switch allows for significant weight loss without a significant change in eating habits when compared to other weight loss procedures, allowing the stomach to still hold 5-6 ounces of food at a time.
Your Insurance Company May Cover Your Weight Loss Procedure
Obesity causes significant health risks. That's why so many insurance companies now cover the costs of weight loss surgery. Of course, individual coverage will depend on the terms of your policy and may also be affected by your location, but many states have expanded insurance coverage for obesity treatment. Consider the following:
- Many major medical insurance providers offer bariatric surgery coverage
- The preapproval process commonly requires documentation from your health care providers that the procedure is warranted.
- Your insurance policy may cover all or only part of the cost. It's important to check your coverage before making a financial commitment
- Some insurance companies cover all of some fees but only parts of others associated with the surgeon, anesthesiologist, and hospital fees
- Some insurance companies will also require a co-pay
It's always best to contact your insurance provider before moving forward with weight loss surgery. You may be asked to complete a six-month weight loss program to show you can commit to the necessary lifestyle changes before your procedure will be approved.
Financing Weight Loss Surgery Without Insurance
Weight loss surgery can help you manage or reduce your risk of more than 40 obesity-related health conditions, including diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. If your insurance does not cover weight loss surgery, or you are faced with a higher deductible than you anticipated, you may want to consider the option of financing your procedure on your own. Just a few of your many payment options include:
- Charging your medical services on a low-interest credit card
- Applying for a personal bank loan and making affordable monthly payments
- Applying for a secured medical loan through your bank or credit union
- Borrowing from your 401K or retirement fund
- Save for your procedure by investing in your health savings account
While the thought of financing bariatric surgery on your own may initially be intimidating, the benefits of surgery are clear. Losing weight is an investment in your long-term health.
Many people struggling with obesity and weight-related health conditions try to lose weight, but their struggle continues. When weight loss diets and exercise fail to produce the results you need, consider the many potential benefits of weight loss surgery. Your procedure may be more affordable than you realize.
To learn more about weight loss surgery, to determine if surgical intervention is the best option for you, contact a bariatric surgical center in your area for a consultation.