Thursday March 26, 2015
Obesity and Your Health
Obesity increases the risk of more than 30 medical conditions, including hypertension, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, respiratory problems, and cancer.

Cost of Gastric Banding

Individuals who are considering weight loss surgery should not choose a procedure based on cost. Rather, they should choose the intervention that is best suited to their personal health and lifestyle situation.

If you are looking into adjustable gastric band surgery and think that this is the right option for you, it is necessary to consider the expenses associated with this type of procedure so that you can make the appropriate financial plans to pay for the cost of treatment.

Cost of Gastric Banding

When comparing the cost of bariatric programs, consider the level of care and qualifications of the bariatric surgeon to perform gastric banding.

Gastric Band Systems

One of the advantages of adjustable gastric band surgery is that it does not require altering the body's natural anatomy. Instead, it involves using a implantable medical device for restricting food ingestion. The overall cost of surgery will include the cost of the medical device as well as all other medical and surgical expenses associated with surgery, including bariatric surgeon fees, hospital fees, and anesthesiologist fees.

Only two adjustable gastric band systems are FDA approved for use in the United States:

While differences exist between the two gastric band systems themselves (LAP-BAND vs REALIZE Band), choosing between one or the other is not a cost issue as the prices are comparable.

Gastric Band Cost

Whether you choose the LAP-BAND or REALIZE Band, the cost of adjustable gastric band surgery in the United States typically ranges from $12,000 to $25,000. This covers the cost of the medical facility, bariatric surgeon, and associated surgical costs (such as anesthesia).

Aftercare is a necessary part of treatment for the first few years and beyond. Follow-up visits can range from $35 to $200 depending on the type of visit. Appointments are needed to monitor an individual's health condition and provide fills or adjustments to the gastric gand.

Cost Factors

While it is possible to talk about the cost of gastric banding in averages, the specific amount paid by each patient can vary due to a wide range factors. Prospective patients should be aware that there is not one "right" price to pay as the cost of treatment varies on an individual basis.

Factors affecting the cost of gastric banding:

  • Health condition of patient
  • Choice of bariatric surgeon
  • Type of medical facility
  • Geographic location
  • Bariatric program's level of service

Gastric Banding Expenses

When comparing the cost of various bariatric surgery providers, it is necessary to consider the services and fees that are either included or excluded from the quoted price. Some bariatric programs provide an all-inclusive comprehensive program with a full level of service, while other bariatric providers bill expenses separately and/or do not offer an adequate level of care and support.

  • Before surgery: pre-op tests and exams, psychological evaluation
  • Surgery: surgeon fees, hospital charges, anesthesiologist fees
  • After surgery: follow-up medical visits, fills and adjustments, diet and nutrition counseling, exercise program, behavioral therapy

Additional expenses to consider are medications, supplements, travel expenses, and medical care in the case of complications or necessity of revisional surgery.

Cost of Pre-op Tests and Exams

Before the gastric banding procedure is performed, patients must undergo a variety of pre-operative tests and exams to make sure they are medically and psychologically cleared for surgery. Required items may include blood tests, electrocardiograph (EKG), chest X-rays, echocardiogram, sleep apnea screening, and a psychological exam. The cost for the pre-op tests and exams are often included in the overall price, but can cost up to $1000 if billed separately.

Cost of Gastric Band Fills and Adjustments

Gastric band patients typically need an average of 5 to 8 fills occurs during the first two to three years after surgery, which is the time when most weight loss occurs. After that time, annual fills may be needed for long-term weight loss management.

The cost of gastric band fills and adjustments depends on many factors, including the bariatric surgeon, medical facility, use of X-ray fluoroscope, patient or non-patient status, and insurance coverage. Depending on the pricing structure of the bariatric surgery program, the cost of gastric band fills and adjustments may or may not be included in the package price.

When billed separately, the average fill cost for patients is $100. If an X-ray fluoroscope is used to perform the fill, it can cost an additional $100 to $200. Also, fills typically cost more for non-patients; that is if the bariatric surgeon even accepts individuals who had the surgery performed elsewhere, as many will not.

Comparing Bariatric Programs

As you consider the cost of bariatric programs, it is worth mentioning that the lowest cost is usually not the best value. As you are making a life-changing decision, it is necessary to consider all factors that contribute to your overall treatment success. In choosing a bariatric program, it is more important to consider the qualifications and experience of the bariatric surgeon and the level of care than it is to base your decision solely on the cost of the bariatric program offering gastric band surgery.

Consumer Guide to WLS

WLS Insurance

WLS Insurance Coverage

Gastric banding is covered by many health insurance policies, although it is likely that certain pre-requisites must first be met before approval is granted.

Most health insurers require written documentation of the following items:

  • A Letter of Medical Necessity from your doctor verifying your qualifying BMI and health status
  • Prior participation in a medically supervised weight loss program
  • A positive psychological evaluation

Even with insurance coverage for surgery, you may have out-of-pocket expenses for co-pays and deductibles, depending on your policy.

Fills and Follow-Up

Aftercare and fills/band adjustments are an essential part of treatment with gastric banding. Depending on the type of visit, follow-up appointments can cost anywhere from $35 to $200.

Most patients get an average of 5-8 fills during the weight loss period, which is generally the first two to three years after surgery, with annual check-ups after that time.

  • Many weight loss surgery patients realize an improvement in arthritis symptoms, experiencing less pain and increased mobility.