Weight loss surgery is one of the most commonly performed surgeries in the United States, and is one of the most effective ways to cure obesity. Many people turn to bariatric-surgery when diets and exercise methods have failed and your weight is a threat to your long-term health. Surgery is often covered by insurance, but some people find that they have to pay out of pocket for their procedures. The good news is that there are ways to reduce the cost of weight-loss surgery and make your new transformation more affordable.
How Much Does Bariatric Surgery Cost?
The cost of surgery depends mainly on what procedure you choose. The cost varies but typically includes the surgeon’s fees, anesthesia and hospital fees. You may need pre and post-surgery services that include sessions with a nutritionist, psychologist and exercise physiologist. The average cost for bariatric surgery is between $14,500 and $23,000 in the United States.
While the price tag for bariatric procedures may seem hefty, many patients report that the results are well worth the investment. Surgery can reverse debilitating conditions like high blood pressure, sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease and various cancers. (1)
People who undergo surgery can lose up to 75 percent of their excess weight, leading to a better quality of life and an increased lifespan. Some patients report having been able to exercise, play with children or even walk a flight of stairs easily for the first time in years. Others are able to make major lifestyle changes and report less pain and a renewed sense of energy after weight loss surgery.
For people who are concerned about the cost of weight loss procedures, experts recommend starting with the gastric band to kickstart weight loss and to develop healthy habits while eating less.
Six Ways to Pay for Surgery and Reduce Your Costs
Secured Medical Loans
With a secured medical loan, you use collateral like your home or car to guarantee the loan. Depending on the value of your collateral, you can borrow up to the full cost of your loan. Because the loan is secured, you can often qualify for lower interest rates and better terms. Many lenders will give you up to 10 years to repay the loan, making it cost effective and affordable.
A 401(k)loan allows you to borrow money from your retirement plan in order to pay for your surgery. You withdraw the amount you need to cover your surgery, making monthly payments with interest. These loans allow you to borrow up to $50,000 or 50 percent of your vested amount, whichever is less. You may be charged early withdrawal penalties and fees, and lose out on the interest you would have earned on your investments. (2)
The benefit of getting a 401(k) loan to pay for surgery is that you can schedule your surgery right away. Some medical conditions like type-2 diabetes worsen over time, so getting your surgery as quickly as possible can make a difference in your long-term health.
Health Savings Accounts
If your job offers health insurance coverage and you have a high deductible, you may also have a health savings account. These accounts work similar to regular savings accounts, but the pre-tax money you contribute is used for health care only. These accounts will allow you to pay for medical procedures like bariatric surgery and related costs. As of 2018, you can contribute up to $3,450 a year to an HSA. In addition, contributing to the account lowers your pre-tax income and roll over to the next year if you don’t use them.
Many people use health savings accounts for the low-cost gastric band to drop an initial amount of weight prior to undergoing gastric sleeve or bypass.
Health Care Credit Accounts
There are medical lending companies that specialize in loaning funds for surgery. These companies will give you a credit limit will cover everything from your pre-surgery labs, appointments, the surgery and your after care. These accounts often offer 0% interest specials if you pay off the account within a set period of months. Many patients depend on health care credit accounts to pay for a variety of medical procedures, including surgery. It is common for post-bariatric patients to undergo plastic surgery, so opening an account can give patients ongoing credit for their new transformation.
If you have a high credit score, you may be eligible for a personal loan. Unlike secured loans, you don’t have to offer up your home or assets as collateral, and you can borrow up to the full cost of your surgery. Getting a personal loan will allow you to get your procedure performed faster, which is ideal if you are suffering from life-threatening conditions that will only worsen with time. The better your credit, the more cost effective it is to take out a personal loan. Those with lower credit scores may be subject to higher interest rates, making it an expensive option.
Surgical Center In-House Financing
Your surgery center offers self-pay options that make it easy for you to afford your surgery. You can make a low down payment to hold your surgery date and make payments each month until you are ready for surgery. Self-pay patients often opt for the laparoscopic gastric sleeve procedure due to its low rates of complication and affordable cost. Many patients start out with minimally invasive, low cost weight loss solutions like the Orbera gastric balloon to lose an initial amount of weight, then progress to gastric band and gastric sleeve to lose the remainder of the weight.
Common Concerns When it Comes to Weight-Loss Surgery
Can’t I Just Lose the Weight With Diet and Exercise?
Most of the people who come to us seeking surgery have already tried several diet and exercise plans over the years and found that they have been ineffective long-term. While most people can drop weight here and there, keeping it off permanently is much more challenging. In the meantime, they struggle with weight-related health conditions and an overall reduced quality of life. In addition, losing and gaining weight is damaging to the liver, and can lead to fatty liver disease.(4) Weight loss procedures have been proven to be successful over a lifetime, leading to better health outcomes overall.
Why is Weight Loss So Difficult?
The problem with weight loss is multi-faceted. While on the surface, it would seem that eating less and exercising would do the trick. In reality, there are many factors working against your weight loss efforts, making it a much more challenging task than simply eating less and going to the gym. First, there are huge misconceptions about portion sizes. Restaurant portions are often three to five times larger than what the body needs, contributing to overeating. After becoming accustomed to these huge portions, it can be hard to gauge a normal portion size when cooking at home. While many people are shocked at how small a bariatric patient’s portions are, the reality is that these patients are eating the recommended amount of food for weight control. (5)
Children are often rewarded for their good behavior and academic excellence with unhealthy food. A pizza party for perfect attendance, ice cream after winning a softball game and cookies for doing chores are common. The connection between food and reward continues over the lifespan, and adults grow up to associate food with common celebrations like weddings, new babies, work achievement and birthday celebrations. The result is an environment that makes healthy eating a major challenge.
In addition to huge portions, the majority of the United States’ communities make getting exercise a challenge. Many cities are towns are not walkable, and even getting light exercise requires deliberate effort. With hectic work schedules and busy lives, getting to a gym for a workout can be an impossible task. Even trying to eat healthy at home can contribute to weight gain as most of the food we consume contains hidden sugars that sabotage our best efforts. (3)
Weight-loss surgery makes it easy for you to consume healthier sized portions, restricting your ability to overeat. It also makes it easy for you to feel full after eating a small, healthy meal, helping you to eat healthy over your lifespan.
Why is Weight Loss Surgery So Expensive
Weight-loss surgery is an investment in overall long-term health. The cost of surgery includes the surgical fees, medications, lab work and post-surgery follow-up. When you consider the cost of obesity, the cost of weight-loss surgery is a small investment over a lifetime.
The costs of obesity include:
Medication costs: Many people who suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes and lung disease have to purchase costly monthly medication for life. Weight loss has been shown to reduce these conditions, and many people are able to discontinue their medication after surgery.
Insurance costs: Life insurance premiums are higher for people who are considered obese as they present a greater risk of premature death. After achieving a healthy weight, most people see their premiums drop.
Lifestyle costs: Larger sized clothing is often more expensive than smaller clothes, and people who are overweight often have to purchase extra seats on airplanes. People who suffer from sleep apnea often find themselves tired during the day, leading to lower levels of productivity and more time away from work. Finally, people who struggle with weight often spend hundreds or thousands of dollars a year in weight loss programs, supplements, gym memberships and diet plans. (6) Many post-surgical patients report not worrying about their weight for the first time in years.
A one-time investment in weight-loss surgery can lead to long-term savings over a lifetime.
Paying for weight loss surgery can be a challenge. One of the best ways to reduce the cost of your bariatric surgery is to find an affordable surgeon who offers a range of options to help you pay for your procedure. Here at Alabama Bariatrics, we have helped many patients fund their weight-loss surgeries, with payment plans, healthcare financing and insurance counseling. We can help you to transform your body and enjoy a healthy lifestyle. Call us to discuss your goals with a personalized consultation today.