Weight loss surgery can help you improve your overall health and self-confidence. Not all types of surgery are covered by all insurance plans and even if they are, patients often need to meet specific requirements to qualify. Those who need less-common procedures are also generally out of luck.
When you've decided on surgery to gain control of your weight and health, there are several financing options that can make paying for it more affordable.
How much your surgery costs varies depending on the type of surgery you're interested in and whether your insurance provider will cover any part of it.
Most weight loss surgeries are a type of bariatric surgery (procedures that involve altering the digestive system). Cosmetic procedures like liposuction or a tummy tuck can also help you lose weight initially, though they might not allow you to keep it off.
You should always speak with a medical professional before deciding on any surgical procedure. Some weight loss procedures allow you to claim a Medicare rebate, but this will generally only cover a small portion of the overall cost.
Gastric bypass is a type of restrictive bariatric surgery that reduces or otherwise changes the size of your digestive system. In a gastric bypass, your stomach is divided into two pouches, one smaller than the other, with both connected to your intestines.
Ultimately, the surgery reduces the volume of food your stomach can hold and the calories (and nutrients) your body can absorb. It's typically reserved for patients with a BMI of 40 or higher.
Gastric bypass surgery typically costs from $4,000 to $6,000 with private health insurance or $16,000 to $18,000 without insurance.
Lap band surgery, also called gastric lap band surgery or gastric band surgery, is a type of restrictive bariatric surgery. Less invasive than other options, this procedure places an adjustable band around an area near the top of your stomach to create a smaller section where food can enter.
Doctors suggest using a lap band in addition to a weight loss plan, because it likely won't reduce hunger and can be minimally effective if you don't also change your diet.
Lap band surgery typically costs from $2,500 to $5,500 with private health insurance or $10,000 to $16,000 without insurance.
A gastric sleeve is a type of restrictive bariatric surgery that involves removing part of your stomach, sometimes as much as 80%. This surgery restricts the amount and types of food you can eat at once: like a gastric bypass, you aren't able to absorb as many nutrients as you would with a full-size stomach. It's also typically reserved for patients with a BMI of 40 or higher.
Gastric sleeve surgery typically costs from $4,000 to $6,000 with private health insurance or $16,000 to $18,000 without insurance.
In this restrictive bariatric procedure, a doctor inserts a balloon into your stomach through your mouth. Your surgeon then fills it with saline to reduce your food cravings. It's a less invasive alternative to bariatric surgery for patients with a lower BMI.
Gastric balloon procedures typically cost from $5,800, but are generally not covered by private health insurance.
Duodenal switch is a restrictive and malabsorptive bariatric surgery that generally combines a gastric sleeve and a gastric bypass. During this procedure, a surgeon removes a large portion of your stomach, leaving the smaller part of your stomach connected to the upper part of your intestines, called the duodenum.
Your surgeon will also alter your intestines to speed up the digestive process and reduce the number of calories your body absorbs. A duodenal switch is generally only recommended for people with a BMI of 50 or higher.
Duodenal switch procedures typically cost from $6,000 to $10,000 with private health insurance or $29,000 to $50,000 without insurance.
Restrictive vs malabsorptive procedures
When researching bariatric surgery, you might come across the terms restrictive and malabsorptive to describe specific procedures.
In short, restrictive refers to procedures that decrease the stomach's capacity to hold food, like gastric stapling or banding.
Malabsorptive surgery typically refers to rerouting the intestines to bypass a part of the small intestines, where fats, proteins and vitamins are absorbed. Fewer nutrients absorbed by your digestive system can mean faster weight loss, but it might also require lifetime supplements to keep your body healthy.
Speak to a medical professional before deciding on any medical procedure to make sure it fits your lifestyle and long-term goals.
Liposuction is a type of cosmetic surgery in which excess fat deposits are removed from your body. It can't treat weight-related health problems and experts recommend it for people within 10–15kgs of their healthy weight (or 24.9 BMI).
Liposuction typically costs from $2,500 to $8,000 per targeted area.
Other weight loss procedures
Other less conventional procedures can be more expensive, because insurance is less likely to cover part of it.
Vagal nerve blocking is a procedure that involves implanting a device in your body that controls your hunger through electrical signals sent to your brain. You could also consider aspiration, which involves the addition of a device that keeps your stomach from completely digesting food.
Can I use a personal loan to pay for weight loss surgery?
Yes, most personal loans can be used for any worthwhile purpose and this includes medical procedures. Weight loss surgeries can be very expensive even if you have private health insurance and a personal loan can help cover these costs. Some lenders even offer specific personal loans for medical purposes.
Updated August 21st, 2019
How else can I pay for weight loss surgery?
First, make absolutely sure you understand your insurance coverage for the type of surgery you need: many bariatric procedures are at least partially covered. You may find your insurance provider covers specific doctors and medical facilities for the procedure you're interested in.
Other financing options include:
Medical payment plans. Many hospitals and medical practices offer plans that allow patients to pay their bills in instalments, rather than all at once, often without interest.
Peer-to-peer loans. You can fund your weight loss surgery through a loan funded by investors, rather than financial institutions, using peer-to-peer lenders. Interest rates are sometimes lower than a standard personal loan.
Credit cards. If your procedure doesn't cost more than your credit limit, it might be easier to put it on your credit card if you know you can pay it off quickly.
Friends and family. If you have trouble pulling together the funds, consider asking relatives or loved ones for financing. They might not charge you interest, though it could hurt your relationships if you're slow to pay it back.
Did you know?
Lenders consider loans secured by collateral less risky than unsecured loans. With a secured loan, your lender can sell the asset you've put up as collateral if you're unable to repay your loan on time. In this situation, your credit will likely suffer, but you might avoid a lawsuit with your creditor for defaulting.
3 tips to help you prepare for weight loss surgery
Expect to lose income. It's not uncommon for patients to be out of commission longer than their paid leave will cover, what with recovery and potential unexpected side effects. Prepare a budget to cover any time not covered by your pay cheque.
Voice your concerns. Talk with your doctor about any doubts or physical concerns you might have before going under the knife. You might end up discussing a topic you didn't realise was important but could potentially alter your procedure for the better.
Quit smoking. Many doctors may require you to quit smoking. Even if yours doesn't, stopping at least a month ahead of surgery might speed up your healing time and prevent complications. You'll likely need to avoid smoking at least a month after your surgery to avoid respiratory complications.
You don't have to put off weight loss surgery if it's crucial to maintaining your health. Personal loans, in-house payment plans and medical loans can help you pick up any costs your insurance plan won't help with.
Not necessarily, but your options might be limited if you have bad credit. Consider joining a credit union or borrowing from a local bank. These institutions tend to be friendly to poor credit borrowers, offering competitive interest rates and longer repayment terms than short-term options, potentially resulting in more manageable repayments after surgery.
Yes. But while it might be less expensive, it's not free of dangers. For instance, other countries might not offer the same medical standards you'd get in Australia. And returning before you're recovered, which can take months, can result in complications, making treatment more difficult once you're back home.
It depends on your situation. The safest surgery might be the most invasive if others aren't effective enough to improve your health. Talk with a medical professional to narrow down a weight loss surgery that's best for your health and long-term goals.
Tom Stelzer is a writer for Finder specialising in personal finance, including personal loans and car loans, as well as small business and business loans. He has previously worked as a freelance writer covering entertainment, culture and football. He has a Master of Media Arts and Production and Bachelor of Communications in Journalism from the University of Technology Sydney.
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