For a person struggling with their weight or living with obesity, it’s not always an easy fix with a salad and a jog through the park. For some, losing weight through diet and exercise is difficult to impossible. Fortunately, bariatric science has advanced in recent years, providing a handful of surgical options for those who have exhausted other alternatives. But how affordable is gastric bypass surgery?
More affordable than you think. And, in some cases, more affordable than the alternative.
The cost of obesity may be greater than you realize. It puts an individual’s health—and sometimes their life—at risk. It can also cost a lot of money over the course of a lifetime. In 2015, The Fiscal Times reported that “the lifetime societal and public health cost of obesity is on average $92,235 per person when compared with the costs associated with a person of normal weight.”
If you’re curious about affordable gastric bypass surgery, here’s what you need to know.
About the Surgery
The basics of gastric bypass surgery are pretty straightforward. A doctor shrinks the size of the patient’s stomach, so they can no longer eat as much as they used to. Additionally, the surgeon can re-route or bypass part of the digestive system, so the patient no longer absorbs as much food.
The most common form of gastric bypass surgery in the United States is a “Roux-en-Y” procedure. During this surgery, a doctor staples part of the stomach together (hence the nickname “stomach stapling”) or uses vertical banding (sometimes called a “lap band”) in order to make the stomach pouch smaller. Then, a Y-shaped section of the small intestine is attached to the pouch, creating a bypass for food, some of which now evades part of the digestive system. As a result, the patient absorbs fewer calories.
There Are Risks
WebMD outlines several risks related to the surgery. They include:
- The stomach stretching over time, returning to its original size.
- The breakdown of staples in the stomach.
- Nutritional, vitamin, and mineral deficiencies, because your body absorbs fewer nutrients after the surgery, which could jeopardize your digestive health.
- Stomal stenosis, a narrowing at the juncture of stomach and small intestine, causing nausea, vomiting, reflux or an inability to eat.
- Dumping syndrome, a condition in which food moves too quickly from stomach to small intestine.
- Gallstones, which typically form when one’s body loses weight too quickly.
How Much Does It Cost?
Gastric bypass surgery can be lifesaving, but it isn’t always cheap. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, the average price of a gastric bypass is between $15,000 and $25,000. But according to Obesity Coverage, an online bariatric health resource, “the most often quoted average surgery price” is $23,000.
Don’t think that knocks you out of the running. Prices will vary based on the state and the healthcare provider. Likewise, your health insurance may cover some or all of the cost of the surgery, depending on your personal circumstance. In many cases, the insurance company will require you to prove that you’ve been unable to lose weight through nonsurgical means, like diet and exercise, but once that’s done and your doctor backs it up, they may cover you.
Even Medicare and Medicaid will sometimes cover major weight-loss surgery. That will require a doctor’s official recommendation and a meeting of other criteria, like a particular body-mass index. Additionally, insurance companies may want to determine that obesity poses a serious risk to overall health before justifying the surgery’s cost.
There are a number of local healthcare providers in every city that can help you with information, walk you through payment or insurance options, and cost quotes.
That said, we already know the cost of obesity, both on your budget and on your body. If your doctor thinks it is the right move for you, spending money on gastric bypass surgery can truly add precious years to your life while saving money down the line.