Tips for Lowering the Cost of Gastric Sleeve Surgery?

by Margaret
(Madison)

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Hello,

I have decided to get weight loss surgery (probably the sleeve, although I’m open to other options).

My insurance doesn’t cover it, so I was wondering if there were some tips to help reduce the cost of the sleeve surgery, even if I can’t get insurance to pay for it.

I’m thinking things like hopefully getting some discounts for dieting before the surgery, or making sure my head is definitely in the right place for surgery and what comes after.

Do things like this exist?

Thanks so much for any advice!

– Margaret

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Surgeon Response to "Tips for Lowering the Cost of Gastric Sleeve Surgery?"

by: John Rabkin, M.D., Pacific Laparoscopy

Margaret,

Congratulations on your decision to proceed with Weight Loss Surgery (WLS). Your initial WLS choice of the Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy (VSG) is an excellent option for many patients and is the most commonly performed WLS in the US today (Spring of 2017).

Paying 'out of pocket' for WLS when your health insurance carrier won't cover the WLS procedure can be daunting: we are all aware of the high cost of medical care and surgical procedures in the US. Of the four standard WLS procedures, the VSG is routinely the least expensive of the group save possibly for the Adjustable Gastric Band ("Lap Band") which has fallen out of favor and is much less commonly performed today as it hasn't been found to be as effective as the other three WLS alternatives.

Unfortunately, there isn't much that you can do as the potential WLS patient to affect the costs of the procedure. However, by 'shopping around' you may find some WLS surgeons/facilities to be much less expensive than others for 'self-pay' patients such as yourself. This has to do in part with the practice of the particular WLS surgeon. Specific details can affect the charges you might face as a prospective WLS patient, such as:

    • where the procedure is performed (inpatient in a hospital versus outpatient in a surgery center with a 23 hour stay arrangement)
    • the anticipated duration of the inpatient stay (if hospitalized)
    • the materials used during the procedure and the recovery (which differ among WLS surgeons who perform the VSG)

As always, if things don't proceed according to plan and additional care is required, you must be prepared for those unanticipated expenses as well. One of the hospitals that I practice in offers a 'self-pay cap' to patients who pay for their WLS surgery out of pocket: this limits the total maximal charges a patient may face in the unexpected situation when additional care would be required.

Finally, some patients find that it may be more affordable to have the WLS outside of the US where charges/costs can be substantially less. This is known as 'medical tourism'. My advice to patients who seek care outside of the US for financial reasons is to proceed cautiously: although there are many excellent providers and facilities of WLS overseas, the uniform standards and oversight found in the US may be lacking overseas.

More importantly, WLS is much more than an operative procedure: it is a 'package' of medical care that extends well beyond the walls of the operating room and relies on long-term care and follow-up for optimal results. For patients who undergo WLS overseas, this is not routinely available to them. Also, in the event of a complication upon their return to the US, obtaining necessary and appropriate care from local WLS providers may prove to be difficult for them.

At the end of the day, paying for and undergoing the WLS is making an 'investment' in your health and life. It could very well be the best 'investment' that you ever make and you'll wonder in the future why it took you so long to take the plunge!

John Rabkin, M.D.
Pacific Laparoscopy

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P.S. If you've found my recommendations or this website helpful, please share on your favorite social media platform or tell a friend about us. Thank you!

DISCLAIMER: This educational advice is based on the depth of your question and the details provided. The above should never replace the advice of your local physicians as they have the ability to evaluate you in person.

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