What does a sleeve gastrectomy cost?

I know I'm a candidate for something drastic like a sleeve gastrectomy and am prepared to do whatever I can to have one. My understanding is that they are pretty expensive but am wondering if any health insurance plans would cover it. At my age [43] I know that my health is very vulnerable at my present weight and how a stroke or heart attack could happen any time so insurance should pay for it, but if they don't, how much does something like this cost?

RichardHugz

M, 44, California

Bariatric surgery and other weight loss surgery tends to be quite expensive. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) the average cost of a sleeve gastrectomy is somewhere between $20,000 and $25,000 in the United States. The exact cost of a gastric sleeve surgery depends on your geographic location, the skill and experience of the bariatric surgeon, the hospital or surgical facility costs and the specifics of your surgical procedure.

Whether or not your health insurance will cover the surgery cost depends on the specifics of your insurance plan. My advice is to carefully review your health plan policy and then to contact your insurance company with specific questions. Coverage for bariatric surgery is very common today because the Affordable Care Act mandates insurers to include obesity surgery in many states.

In the event that your insurance company doesn’t cover sleeve gastrectomy surgery, keep in mind that many surgeons and surgical centers can assist you with financing options that allow you to spread the total cost over multiple months or years.

For patients suffering from morbid obesity and from life-threatening complications resulting from obesity, I advise you to seek treatment sooner than later -- even if your insurance coverage won't cover the procedure. It's important to consider the personal, financial and health-related costs of not getting the procedure if your weight hasn't responded to traditional weight-loss programs.

During a sleeve gastrectomy most of the existing stomach pouch is surgically removed, leaving just 15% of the original stomach in place. Because the new stomach-shape resembles a tube or a sleeve after the surgery, the procedure is referred to as a "sleeve gastrectomy" or "tube gastrectomy". Laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy is the fastest-growing surgery procedure for weight-loss in North America. It is considered to be nearly as effective as gastric bypass surgery, with a lower risk of negative side-effects like “dumping syndrome”.

Sleeve gastrectomy costs slightly more than gastric band surgery but has been shown to yield better weight-loss results over the medium to long term.

A sleeve gastrectomy costs anywhere from $18,000 to $50,000 depending on a number of factors. These factors include the skill and expertise of your surgeon, your geographic location, your choice of surgery center and the details of your surgical procedure.

You should also be aware that you may require postoperative follow-up care, and you will need to visit a nutritionist after the procedure. Nutritionists generally cost $50 to $100 per visit, but may cost more in some cases.

Most health plans today will cover weight loss surgery for patients who represent good candidates. I encourage you to consult with a board certified plastic surgeon to determine if you are a good candidate and if gastric sleeve surgery makes sense for you. In the event that your insurance plan can't cover the procedure, bear in mind that many doctors offer patient-financing programs to help defer the costs.

Great question. A sleeve gastrectomy is an extremely popular surgical weight-loss procedure which removes approximately 85% of the existing stomach pouch, creating a narrow "sleeve" or tube.

A vertical sleeve gastrectomy is an expensive surgical procedure. With a price-tag that can range from $20,000 to $30,000 USD and higher, it's important to consider costs.

Your insurance provider may cover the procedure if it is deemed a "medical necessity". While I can't offer you any direct medical advice without an initial consultation, if you have a BMI over 40, and are at-risk from a heart-attack, stroke or life-threatening conditions, the procedure is likely to be considered medically necessary.

If your insurance company won’t cover the surgery (or if you don't have health insurance) it may be worth it to find a hospital, surgical center or bariatric surgeon who offers payment plans to help you finance the procedure.

Always remember to consult with a bariatric surgeon for the best advice.