Why an Adjustable Gastric Band?
The adjustable gastric band, also known as a lap band, is the least invasive and most reversible bariatric surgical procedure. In this procedure, a band is placed around the upper part of the stomach, creating a small pouch that’s partially separated from the rest of the stomach. This band is usually placed laparoscopically; hence the term lap band. The band is actually a tube, and the opening of the tube comes through the skin, with a closure called a port at the surface. This allows sterile saline (salt water) to be injected into or removed from the band to adjust its size. After placement, the band is gradually made tighter and tighter to reduce the size of the stomach pouch. This reduces the amount of food that the patient can consume, which then leads to weight loss.
If you’re choosing bariatric surgery, make sure you’re choosing it because you really want it, not to please someone else or to fit an imagined ideal. No one else can make the choice for you; it’s your body, and you’re in charge of it. After you do your research and understand the procedure, if you believe that an adjustable gastric band is right for you, then proceed. You can learn more about the adjustable gastric band procedure, its risks and benefits, in our Education Wiki.
The average cost for bariatric surgery is between $11,500 and $26,000. The lap band tends to be the least expensive bariatric surgical procedure, with costs as low as $9,000 and $14,000 being the most common price. This price generally includes the surgeon’s fee, operating room and hospital costs, blood tests, and follow-up appointments. Keep in mind that this is only an average; it varies by region and by individual surgeon, so you should check with the surgeon(s) you’re considering to determine their exact fee for the procedure. Ask what’s included in that fee, to make sure you aren’t surprised by extra costs when you get the bill later.
There may be additional costs associated with your bariatric surgery. Visits to a nutritionist are not always included. Many patients need to take nutritional supplements (vitamins and minerals) after their procedure; this long-term expense is also not included. Also, if there are any complications from the surgery, the cost of treating those will be an extra cost. The lap band procedure is generally a safe surgical procedure, but complications from surgery are always possible, and some rare people will have severe complications. You should be prepared in case that rare person is you.
Will Insurance Cover It?
Often, medical insurance covers bariatric surgery. The companies do so because losing large amounts of weight can dramatically reduce your later health expenditures; obesity causes a variety of health problems that can be expensive. The coverage, if offered, includes most of the costs above: the surgeon’s fee, any extra fees, and any postoperative complications that may arise. However, visits with a nutritionist may not be covered, and the cost of nutritional supplements is almost never covered. There may also be large copays or deductibles even for the covered expenses.
Additionally, not all medical insurance policies cover bariatric surgery. Some specifically exclude it, while others group it under “cosmetic surgery” or other procedures that they don’t cover. You should call your insurance company to determine whether bariatric surgery is covered under your policy. If not, you can choose to pay the cost yourself; remember that you’ll need the money not only for the operation itself, but for the extra costs, and access to some additional funds to pay for any complications that may arise.
What Are the Financing Options?
To many people, paying thousands of dollars up front seems impossible. However, if you don’t already have the money saved, you have many options available for financing. Many physicians offer financing plans for their patients. You can also get a medical credit card or other credit card, often with an attractive introductory interest rate; a medical loan, personal loan, or home equity loan from your bank; a loan from your 401(k); or loans or gifts from family and friends. Even if your credit isn’t great, you’d be surprised how many options you have. For more details about the financing options for your procedure, check out our Bariatric Surgery Financing page.