7 Ways to Decrease the Cost Of Gastric Bypass Surgery
Gastric bypass surgery is expensive. For many, this surgery is cost-prohibitive, meaning that people sometimes do not have the surgery because they cannot afford it. Yet, gastric bypass surgery is often the only way to lose a significant amount of weight and solve many other health complications. Before you let the cost of gastric bypass surgery determine whether or not you have a healthier tomorrow, take a look at these 7 ways to decrease your fees.
How Much Does Gastric Bypass Surgery Cost?
Before we dive into the different ways to lower your gastric bypass cost, it is important to become familiar with the actual surgery cost for you. The best way to determine how much surgery will cost you is to check with your insurance provider and your surgeon. Surgery costs vary between bariatric surgeons and hospitals. There are even differences between states.
The average cost of gastric bypass surgery is $23,000. Indeed, that is the going rate for many bariatric surgery practices. However, the cost of gastric bypass surgery can range from between $14,000 - $30,000 in the United States.
Because surgery can be so expensive without insurance coverage, many people seek low-cost gastric bypass surgery outside of the United States and often travel to places like Mexico. Bariatric surgery is one of the more common reasons driving medical tourism. While surgical fees may be cheaper abroad, there can be additional risk factors with medical tourism that you must consider.
Before you start looking at cheaper options abroad for gastric bypass, or even in your home country and state, you should:
- Look for a surgeon specializing in the type of bariatric surgery you want, such as gastric bypass. You can further confirm their experience by finding out how many procedures they have performed.
- Research the facility you will have surgery in, and especially look into how they care for post-bariatric surgery patients.
- Consider convenience when it comes to follow-up appointments and plans because you may need further care after surgery if a complication arises.
Once you have researched who you want to perform your surgery, it is time to figure out how to pay for it.
#1: Go through your insurance company
Insurance is the best way to decrease the cost of gastric bypass surgery. The best way to find out what your out-of-pocket expenses will be is to talk to your insurance carrier. Together, you can review your policy and check to see what bariatric surgeons are "in-network."
Many insurance policies do not include weight loss surgery or even treatment for obesity and associated care for helping with weight loss. However, people with comorbidities or other health conditions related to their excess weight have a better chance of getting partial coverage for surgery. Examples of obesity-related health conditions may include:
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Heart disease (including high blood pressure and high cholesterol)
- Sleep apnea
- Gallbladder disease
Treating obesity can help improve and even treat or prevent many of the above health conditions. For example, gastric bypass surgery can help treat diabetes. Thus, if your doctor can prove to your insurance carrier that you have one of the above conditions, they may help cover your surgery.
Keep in mind: even if insurance covers the cost of gastric bypass surgery, you will likely still be responsible for meeting your deductible, paying any co-pays, and covering other parts of your care that may not be included (such as nutrition consultations and post-surgery procedures like skin tightening).
#2: Make sure your bariatric surgeon offers a competitive rate
Don't be afraid to shop around for a bariatric surgeon. Of course, you will want to go with a surgeon who has the proper credentials and experience in performing gastric bypass surgery. But, it can help to compare different surgeons when it comes to their expertise and their fees.
Sometimes, hospitals offer lower fees for their surgical suites and post-op care. You can inquire at individual hospitals and check with your surgeon to see if they have the right to practice at other hospitals in the area that may be cheaper.
#3: See if your doctor offers a payment plan
Bariatric surgeons know that the cost of surgery can be very prohibitive for most patients. Yet, they know that surgery can be life-changing and can give you a healthier future, especially if you are committed to meeting your weight loss goals.
It is essential to be open with your surgeon and their billing team about your cost concerns. Likely, they will broach the topic of the cost before you schedule your surgery. They expect surgical fees to be a challenge for many patients, so be transparent about your concerns and ability to pay. Your surgeon's office should work with your insurance company to help get you covered. If insurance coverage is not available, some surgeons will offer a payment schedule to help their patients pay off their surgery bills more gradually.
#4: Consider a medical loan
Some people go the route of a medical loan if they cannot get enough coverage for their operation. You can go through loan distributors that specialize in providing medical loans, or you can also approach your bank for a personal loan. Just like with most loans, you should expect your creditor to hold collateral against your loan, meaning that they will have something of equal value (your car or a home) to guarantee repayment of the loan.
#5: See if you qualify for Medicaid
Medicaid is a government-run health care program administered by individual states. People who meet specific income requirements are eligible for Medicaid. In most cases, Medicaid will cover your gastric bypass surgery cost if you meet their criteria for surgery. Some of the Medicaid criteria include:
- Having a body mass index over 35 with at least one comorbidity.
- Having a body mass index over 40 with at least one comorbidity is under 21 years of age.
- A letter of medical necessity written by your primary care physician
- Approval from a psychiatrist confirming you have passed a psychological exam.
- Evidence that you have participated in a medically supervised weight loss program for at least 6 months within the last 12 months before your surgery date.
#6: Check with your employer
Some employers offer financial incentives to employees who seek out opportunities to get healthier. Check with your human resources department to see if they provide any of these incentives to their employees seeking weight loss surgery. Additionally, if you get your insurance through your employer, you can work with one of your company's representatives to see if you have coverage for gastric bypass surgery.
If your employee insurance does not cover bariatric surgery, work with your human resources department to modify your company's policy to include weight loss surgery. Generally, it is in a company's best interest to have a healthy workforce, so there are financial incentives in the long run for your employer as well as for you.
#7: Anticipate long-term costs associated with gastric bypass
Often, we can get tunnel vision when it comes to figuring out the ins and outs of affording gastric bypass surgery. Usually, we focus on the cost of surgery, but there are often many more costs associated with this decision than the procedure itself. Consider that you will have other expenses down the road, including medications, visiting other specialists (such as your primary care physician, endocrinologist, nutritionist, therapist, etc.).
Furthermore, there is always a risk that you may need revisional surgery. Make sure to consider the cost of gastric bypass revision. Often, gastric bypass revision can be more costly and has higher complications.
Now that you have explored some options for reducing the cost of gastric bypass surgery, it is time to start exploring your options. When you are estimating your total fees, you may feel overwhelmed and discouraged. However, it would help if you also considered the costs of not pursuing surgery and what that can mean for your overall health and quality of life.
You do not have to make this decision alone. Talk with your bariatric surgeon about how to pursue your weight loss goals best and what you can do to get the financial support you need.