What is Gastric Bypass Surgery?
Gastric bypass is a type of weight loss, or bariatric surgery, that helps you lose weight and keep it off by making the stomach smaller. and re-routing part of the digestive system. Additionally, studies have shown that levels of the hunger hormone known as ghrelin, which triggers appetite, are significantly reduced post-surgery.
Also known as “Roux-en-Y” gastric bypass, or RYGB, the surgery can be done laparoscopically, using several small incisions into which small instruments are inserted, including a camera, or laparoscope, to see inside. This is the most commonly performed weight loss surgery accounting for nearly half of all weight loss surgeries.
The procedure itself involves dividing the stomach into two parts by stapling a small upper section where the food you eat will go. That small portion is called the “pouch”, which holds less food than you were able to eat before so you will feel full much faster.
After stapling your stomach, the surgeon then cuts into your small intestine and attaches the lower part of it directly to the stomach pouch, so that the food will now bypass the rest of your stomach and go directly from the pouch into your small intestine. However, because the food now bypasses most of the stomach and some of the small intestines that absorbs food, your body will not get all the nutrients or calories from the food. Gut bacteria is also affected.
Gastric bypass surgery is difficult to reverse, although it may be done if it is deemed medically necessary.
As with any surgery there are associated risks; additional risks specific to this type of surgery include:
Staples can fall apart
Deficiencies in vitamins and minerals
Dumping syndrome, which happens when the food moves too quickly from the stomach to the small intestine, resulting in nausea, fainting, sweating and occasionally diarrhea after eating.
Stomal stenosis, a narrowing at the connection of the stomach and small intestine which can cause nausea, vomiting, reflux, and then an inability to eat.
What Does Gastric Bypass Surgery Cost?
Weight loss surgery is expensive, with estimates ranging from $20,000 to $25,000, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Other estimates put the price range at $8,425 to $19,325 with a national average cost for an inpatient gastric bypass at $31,439.
Your actual cost will vary depending on:
The surgery itself
Your surgeon’s fee
Surgical assistant fees
Additional costs may include:
Gastric bypass surgery can be lifesaving by helping to prevent major health challenges, but it is expensive and not all health insurance plans cover it. Be sure to read your insurance policy carefully. If it is not specifically excluded, speak with your insurance company representative to determine if it is an option and what criteria must be met for the process to proceed.
Each private insurance company will have their own requirements to meet and may include:
Proof that surgery is necessary
A psychological evaluation
Participation in a physician-supervised diet program
A nutritional evaluation
Additional diagnostic tests
What if your insurance company declines to pay for the surgery when it’s not specifically excluded in your policy? It may be possible to make an appeal to reverse the denial.
And if that doesn’t work…
How Do You Pay for Surgery Without Insurance?
If health insurance is still not an option, talk with your doctor and your surgeon about possibly financing the surgery through them. Here are some other financing options:
Hospital Payment Plan
The hospital you choose for your surgery may help you by offering a payment plan, spreading out the cost of the surgery over several months or longer, possibly at lower interest rates.
Contact the hospital’s billing department to see what payment plan(s) they offer.
Health Savings Account (HSA)
Health savings accounts are limited to health-related expenses and are taken out of your paycheck before your salary is taxed, making HSAs a better option than withdrawing money from a personal savings account, which was deposited after taxes were taken out.
Note that as of 2018, if you are single you can contribute up to $3,450 per year to your HSA.
Secured Medical Loan
A secured loan is one that you guarantee with collateral. The bank or credit union will often give you a lower interest rate with this type of loan because you are promising repayment with a guarantee that if you fall behind on your payments, the lender can seize your collateral, such as your house or car.
The amount of the loan is limited to the value of the collateral, but you may have as long as 10 years to repay the loan.
Another option is to take money out of your 401(k) retirement fund. When you do this, you are essentially borrowing money from yourself and making monthly payments on the loan that include interest.
With a 401(k) loan the amount you can borrow is usually up to $50,000 or 50% of your vested account balance, whichever is less. Keep in mind that you may also have to pay set-up and maintenance fees in addition to the principal and the interest.
CareCredit is a credit card that can only be used for certain qualifying medical expenses. As long as you repay the loan in full within the promotional period of 24 months, it is a no-interest loan.
As with any other promotional type of credit card, if you are unable to pay off the balance during the specified time, you will be charged interest on the entire loan amount from the original date of the loan.
Taking out a low-interest personal loan might be an option if you have good credit. Typically, the better your credit history and income the lower the interest rate will be, and the more money you can borrow, which is typically anywhere between $1,000 and $100,000.
Another benefit of personal loans is that they typically don’t require collateral, unlike a secured loan.
And finally, it might be worth considering taking out a loan against your life insurance policy, or possibly getting a loan from family or friends.
Explore your options but be realistic. Shop around, do the math and see what your best option is, because there are options, even without insurance.
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