- Bariatric surgery is a medical procedure that alters your digestive tract to help you lose weight.
- The cost of bariatric surgery varies widely, with the average cost being around $14,389.
- Several factors affect the total cost of bariatric surgery, such as insurance coverage, the type of bariatric surgery, and where the surgery takes place.
Obesity is a growing health concern worldwide.
It’s an underlying factor for several medical conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers.
If you have obesity and have tried other weight loss methods without success, bariatric surgery may be a tool that can help.
When considering bariatric surgery, it’s important to understand the financial considerations.
This article examines the average cost of bariatric surgery in the U.S., factors that affect the overall cost, insurance coverage, and possible financing options if you do not have insurance.
What Is Bariatric Surgery?
Also called weight loss surgery, bariatric surgery is a medical procedure that can help you lose weight and decrease your risk for several medical conditions if you have obesity.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than two adults out of five (42%) have obesity.
The U.S. has one of the highest obesity prevalence rates in the world.
Bariatric surgery alters your digestive tract to reduce how much food your stomach can hold and/or reduces the absorption of nutrients.
The primary goal of bariatric surgery is to reduce excess body weight, decrease obesity-related health issues, and enhance your quality of life.
Types of Bariatric Surgery
Several types of bariatric surgery options are available.
Each has its unique approach to altering the digestive system.
In 2021, there were about 262,893 people who underwent bariatric surgery in the U.S.
- Gastric Bypass Surgery (Roux-en-Y): This surgery involves creating a small pouch at the top of the stomach to reduce how much food you can eat. The small intestine is then re-routed to the pouch to limit calorie absorption.
- Sleeve Gastrectomy (Gastric Sleeve): For this procedure, the surgeon removes a significant portion of your stomach, leaving a smaller, banana-shaped stomach. This reduces how much food the stomach can hold and helps you feel full faster.
- Gastric Banding (Lap-Band): This surgery involves placing an adjustable band around the upper portion of the stomach to create a smaller stomach pouch. The band is full of saline and can be adjusted to control your food intake.
The type of surgery your doctor suggests depends on several factors your surgeon will discuss. Each procedure has its own costs associated with it.
Average Cost of Bariatric Surgery in the United States
According to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), the average cost of bariatric surgery in the U.S. is between $17,000 and $26,000.
The Bariatric and Metabolic Center of Colorado lists their surgery prices:
- Laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy: $12,250.
- Laparoscopic gastric bypass: $18,650.
- Lap band revision to gastric sleeve: $13,750.
- Lap band revision to gastric bypass: $20,150.
The University of Kansas Health System lists their self-pay prices:
- Gastric bypass: $15,000.
- Sleeve gastrectomy: $9,500.
The CHI Memorial Medical Group, with locations throughout Tennessee and North Georgia, lists their self-pay price for gastric sleeve as $12,000.
The Center for Bariatrics at Bailey Medical Center in Oklahoma lists their self-pay prices:
- Laparoscopic gastric sleeve: $14,995.
- Laparoscopic gastric bypass: $16,995.
The Heartland Weight Loss Clinic in Missouri lists their self-pay gastric sleeve price as $9,999.
The Beltre Bariatrics Center for Metabolic and Obesity Surgery in Florida lists their self-pay price for a gastric sleeve surgery as $11,500.
Keep in mind that these prices are the self-pay prices.
If you are paying with insurance, the cost may change.
Factors That Affect the Cost of Bariatric Surgery
Several factors affect the cost of bariatric surgery.
- Type of surgery: Each bariatric surgery has very different levels of complexity and, consequently, has different costs.
- Surgeon’s experience: A surgeon with more experience performing bariatric surgeries may charge higher fees for their expertise.
- Location: The cost of healthcare services varies by location. For example, hospitals may charge more than surgery centers, and urban areas may charge more than rural areas.
Insurance Coverage for Bariatric Surgery
Some insurance coverage may be available, but it varies depending on the provider and each individual policy.
According to a survey in 2020, most private insurance companies require a person to participate in a doctor-monitored weight loss program to try and lose weight before agreeing to pay for bariatric surgery.
In 2022, major updates to the 1991 National Institutes of Health (NIH) guidelines for bariatric surgery were made.
These updates include specific requirements that must be met in order to qualify for bariatric surgery. These include:
- A minimum Body Mass Index (BMI) of 35 or higher.
- A minimum BMI of 30 or greater along with type 2 diabetes.
- A minimum BMI of 30 or greater with documented failed attempts to lose weight by other nonsurgical methods.
It is important to note that insurance companies are not required to adopt these new guidelines and are able to set their own bariatric surgery requirements.
Medicare does help pay for gastric bypass and laparoscopic banding if you meet certain criteria.
If you have questions about your coverage, it’s best to call your insurance company and get information specific to your plan.
They may require pre-authorization for the surgery, and you may be responsible for meeting any deductibles, co-pays, or out-of-pocket maximums listed in the policy.
Financing Options for Those Without Insurance Coverage
If you do not have insurance, several financing options are available.
Medical loans are similar to personal loans but are specifically meant for paying medical bills and usually have fixed interest rates.
You can get loans like this from banks, online lenders, or credit unions.
Certain healthcare facilities provide in-house financing for bariatric surgeries using a third-party program that functions as a healthcare credit card.
If you choose this financing option, you’ll request credit through the third-party provider and then pay a fixed monthly amount.
Secured Personal Loan
In contrast to a regular personal loan, a secured personal loan asks for collateral to get approval for the loan.
The collateral may be your savings in your bank account, a certificate of deposit, or even one of your belongings, such as your car.
Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA)
If you have been depositing money into an HSA or FSA account, you can use these tax-advantaged accounts to pay for bariatric surgery and other medical costs.
Using a credit card is another possible option for making for your bariatric surgery.
If your credit is decent, it may be a good choice compared to other ways, even though the amount to borrow might not be very high.
Additional Costs to Consider After Bariatric Surgery
Often, listed bariatric surgery pricing does not include all of the services required before or after surgery.
For example, The University of Kansas Health System lists the services its price covers and those it does not.
The following are covered under their price:
- Initial nutritional evaluations.
- Initial psychological evaluations.
- Hospital and surgeon fees.
- Dietary support.
- Possible infusion treatments after surgery.
- Possible insurance for complications.
- Postoperative follow-up visits for one year.
- Routine pre- and postoperative tests.
The following services are not covered under their price:
- CPAP machine, if needed.
- Vitamins and supplements.
- Additional nutritional consultations.
- Additional psychological evaluations or appointments.
- Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) if required.
It is important to plan for these other potential costs and ensure you have a realistic budget.
The decision to have bariatric surgery is significant and will impact your health and finances.
While the cost of bariatric surgery can be substantial, the procedure can be a tool for a healthier life.
Understanding the costs, navigating insurance coverage, and exploring financing options are important aspects of this decision.
By looking at these and exploring your options, you can decide if bariatric surgery is right for you.
How a Dietitian Can Help
Deciding if bariatric surgery is right for you can be overwhelming.
Your Nourish dietitian can help you identify if you are a candidate for surgery, discuss the types of bariatric procedures, review health benefits, and discuss the required lifelong commitment necessary to maintain success.
Frequently Asked Questions
See a Registered Dietitian with Nourish
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