How Much Does Weight Loss Surgery Cost?

If eating healthy food and staying active is not helping you lose weight, you might be considering weight loss surgery. Although many patients get excellent results through a combination of weight loss surgery and healthy lifestyle habits, it is important to consider the costs of weight loss surgery before deciding to go through with the procedure. Weight loss surgery can be quite expensive, but it can also produce life-changing results for those individuals who can cover the costs with their health insurance or pay for it through other means.

Here is an overview of the direct and miscellaneous costs that are typically associated with weight loss surgery, as well as the different payment options available to you.

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What is weight loss surgery?

Patients who are very overweight usually find it more challenging to lose weight through traditional methods than people who are moderately overweight. Weight loss surgery provides another option for obese individuals who are interested in seeking a healthier lifestyle.

This surgery, also known as bariatric surgery, is a blanket term that encompasses several more specific procedure types. It is designed to help patients achieve significant weight loss, typically by reducing the size of their stomach to make it more difficult to eat the large volume of food they are used to consuming.

Sleeve gastrectomy is currently the most common type of weight loss surgery in the United States. In this procedure, a large portion of the stomach is removed to reduce the amount of food the patient can comfortably eat. Other options include the insertion of a gastric band, which reduces the usable portion of the stomach without removing it; and gastric bypass surgery, which reroutes part of your digestive system to keep you from absorbing as much food.

Who qualifies for weight loss surgery?

Simply being overweight does not necessarily mean that you are a good candidate for weight loss surgery. This procedure is intended primarily for patients who are very obese, who have had little to no success with losing weight at a reasonable rate, even after adjusting their lifestyles to include healthier food and more exercise.

Weight qualifications

Individuals with a BMI of 30 or higher are typically considered to be obese, and obesity can be further divided into three classes based on your total BMI:

  • Class I: BMI of 30–34

  • Class II: BMI of 35–39

  • Class III: BMI of 40+ (considered severe obesity)

Most patients who qualify for weight loss surgery fall into the Class II or Class III categories — these individuals are likely to find it more challenging to lose weight naturally.

The general qualifications are being a minimum of 100 pounds overweight or having a BMI of at least 40. You may also qualify with a BMI of 35 if you have at least one significant health concern that is directly linked to your weight, such as hypertension, heart disease, type II diabetes, or one of a wide range of gastrointestinal disorders.

Lifestyle qualifications

Most reputable surgeons will only perform weight loss surgery on patients who show a reasonable commitment to living a healthier lifestyle. Although your weight loss surgery will make it difficult to eat in the quantities you are used to, you will not see your desired results if you continue to eat mostly unhealthy food and live a sedentary lifestyle. For this reason, you will need to take steps to improve your lifestyle prior to being approved for weight loss surgery. This will show that you are likely to supplement your surgery with healthy habits following the procedure.

How much does weight loss surgery cost?

Weight loss surgery can be an excellent option for the right person, but you should understand that it is an expensive procedure. As with any voluntary surgery, you should carefully consider the costs and the potential benefits before deciding to go ahead.

The cost of weight loss surgery can vary significantly depending on where you live, the type of surgery you choose, and the hospital where you have the procedure done.

Of the three main types of weight loss surgery, gastric bypass surgery is typically the most expensive option, with an average cost of approximately $23,000. A lap band and sleeve gastrectomy surgery can cost somewhat less, with an average cost of $14,500–14,900. These estimates typically only include the surgical procedure itself, not inclusive of any medication or care you might need afterward. Other related expenses will typically be on top of this figure.

Are there any hidden costs of weight loss surgery?

In addition to the cost of the surgical procedure itself, you will need to plan for some extra costs that are related to your weight loss surgery.

Most patients will need to take between one and three weeks off work following the procedure. If you have a particularly physical job that you cannot reasonably return to until you are fully recovered, you may need to take up to six weeks off work. You will also need to consider the price of the medications you might need during the healing process, the numerous appointments before and after your procedure, and any assistance you may need to help you perform everyday tasks in the weeks following your weight loss surgery.

Is weight loss surgery covered by health insurance?

The level of insurance coverage you can expect to receive when considering weight loss surgery depends largely on your specific health insurance policy. Health insurance is generally reserved for procedures that are a medical necessity, rather than cosmetic ones.

Where weight loss surgery falls on this spectrum is gradually shifting. In the past, weight loss surgery was generally thought of as a cosmetic option that was only available to patients who could afford to pay for it out of their own pocket. However, this definition is changing in light of increasing obesity rates, the official classification of obesity as a medical condition, and the need to make treating obesity more accessible to a wider range of patients.

Many insurance policies are now covering certain aspects of weight loss surgery that were previously considered experimental and therefore ineligible. Gastric sleeves, mini-gastric bypasses, duodenal switches, and similar procedures are more likely to be covered now by your insurance company than they were in the past.

Despite this, you should consult your insurance company early on in the process to find out more. This is particularly important if you know that you will not be able to afford weight loss surgery without a substantial amount of insurance coverage. While the classification of weight loss surgery as a medical versus cosmetic procedure is gradually changing, many insurance providers are at different stages in the adjustment process and the terms of your specific policy will play an important role in determining the nature of your coverage.

Other options for paying for weight loss surgery

Most patients considering weight loss surgery will find that some if not all of their procedure is covered by their insurance. However, if you are uninsured or your insurance policy will only provide inadequate funds, you may have other options available to you.

Many patients spend several years considering weight loss surgery while attempting to lose weight in other ways. This means that you will have the time to think about changing your insurance provider or policy before ultimately committing to the procedure. You can also find out if you qualify for Medicaid, which does cover the procedure under most circumstances. Alternatively, you could find a new job that includes better health insurance. If none of these options is a good fit for you, you may also consider obtaining a medical loan or another private loan through your bank to help you access the funds you need.

Weight loss surgery can be an excellent option for the right individual, but before you make a decision, carefully consider the potential benefits of the procedure as well as the costs involved, and how you will cover them.

Weight loss surgery is an expensive procedure, but you may have several options for obtaining the funds you need. The benefit of reaching a healthier weight is that it allows you to live the lifestyle you want, which — for the vast majority of people who undergo weight loss surgery — is well worth the investment.

  1. Defining Adult Overweight & Obesity | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  2. Weight-loss surgery: Is it an option for you? | Mayo Clinic

  3. Obesity | Mayo Clinic

  4. Diagnosis | NHS

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