Why a Gastric Bypass?
A Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB), often simply called a gastric bypass, is the oldest and still the most common of the bariatric surgical procedures. In this procedure, the stomach is divided into two portions: an upper small portion, where the swallowed food from the esophagus will go, and a lower large portion. Then the small intestine is divided into two parts. The lower portion of the small intestine is connected directly to the small stomach pouch; after swallowing, food will pass into the small stomach pouch and then directly into this lower part of the small intestine. The upper part of the small intestine, still connected to the stomach, is connected to the rest of the small intestine lower down, so that stomach acids and digestive enzymes from the pancreas and liver can make their way to the food at that point.
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 a gastric bypass is right for you, then proceed. You can learn more about the gastric bypass procedure, its risks and benefits, in our Education Wiki.
The average cost for bariatric surgery is between $11,500 and $26,000. A gastric bypass is somewhat more expensive than the laparoscopic bariatric surgical procedures (adjustable gastric band and sleeve gastrectomy), and usually costs about $21,000. 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. While complications from surgery are not extremely common, the gastric bypass procedure does have a higher rate of complications than some other bariatric surgical procedures, 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.