There are a variety of different forms of weight loss surgery available today ranging from malabsorption procedures such as biliopancreatic diversion to commonly performed mixed procedures such the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass and the increasingly popular adjustable gastric banding, or lap band, restrictive operations. Despite this range, whichever route you choose, the price tag is going to be high and, for many people, meeting the cost of bariatric surgery is far from easy.
Costs will of course vary widely and will depend on such things as where you choose to have your surgery and the surgical and follow-up team that will take care of you. In this respect it’s a little bit like buying a car. Once you’ve decided upon the make and model you want, there will then be a wide difference in price between the top and the bottom of the range.
As a very general guide, the cost of malabsorption or mixed surgery will start at around $25,000 while lap band surgery will come in at between about $15,000 and $18,000. These however are simply a guide to the starting price of surgery and do not take into account any additional costs that may arise as a result of complications.
Complications vary from relatively minor inconvenience with little or no additional cost, to quite severe difficulties which may require a longer stay in hospital or re-admittance for further treatment or additional surgery.
The chances of running into complications are also high and, even in the hands of an experienced surgical and after-care team, run at about 40% in the case of malabsorption or mixed surgery.
Complication rates appear at the moment to be lower in the case of lap band surgery but, as such surgery has only been licensed for use in the United States since 2001, statistical evidence is scarce at this point. One thing that should also be noted is that with a less experienced surgeon your chances of encountering complications can rise dramatically.
For malabsorption and mixed surgery patients who encounter problems within the first six months of surgery that do not require re-admission to hospital costs can be expected to rise on average to $36,000. In cases where re-admission is required for serious complications, the average cost of bariatric surgery reaches a staggering $65,000.
Note that all of these figures are simply an average across a huge number of patients and for a few unlucky individuals costs will rise well above $100,000.
With obesity at epidemic proportions according to the World Health Organization and with the number of bariatric operations rising daily, the subject of the cost of obesity generally, and surgery in particular, is being widely debated and increasing pressure is being brought on governments and insurance providers to review their attitudes towards funding.
Such appeals are slowly meeting with success, as can be seen in recent changes to the wording of Medicare policies with respect to obesity.
Nevertheless, while in many cases insurance companies will meet part or all of the bill as long as you are prepared to stand your ground and fight your case, a significant number of people are still having to meet the cost from their own pocket which, even with some tax breaks for such out-of-pocket expenses, is still a costly proposition.
For many the only solution at present is to turn to a number of companies who will provide the necessary financing and allow you to spread the cost of repayments over several years.