The Unexpected Costs of Weight-Loss Surgery

unexpected expenses of weight-loss surgeryFor those burdened by a lifetime of obesity, the cost of weight-loss surgery is well worth it, especially if they are covered by good medical insurance. The gastric bypass, the most popular form of weight-loss surgery to date, can cost from $20,000 to $35,000. However, that's not the grand total; there are other, often-unexpected costs of weight-loss surgery of which consumers should be aware.

The first is the co-pay for the surgery itself. Some insurers will pay for the operation when obesity presents a serious threat to health, but even then high co-pays are not unusual. A recent New York Times article quoted Dr. Robin Blackstone of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery as saying that this can be as much as $5,000.Dramatic weight loss can result in a great deal of excess skin in the abdomen, arms, legs and even the face. Many successful losers use cosmetic surgery to tighten back up, although few if any insurance programs will pay for it. And it's not cheap; according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the average tummy tuck in the U.S. in 2009 was $5,381, a lower body lift $7,809, and an upper arm lift, $2,689.

If the nation has learned one thing from the television show The Biggest Loser, it's that exercise is a crucial part of maintaining weight loss. Most successful losers will want to join a gym for their workouts, adding another $20-$50 a month to their bills.

Having a good support network is another important part of maintaining a weight loss, and some people will turn to behavior modification specialists or other counselors to help them. Their insurance carrier might even mandate a care-management program, which could cost $1,500 or more.

Some will find that, as they change the way they eat, fresh foods and nutritional supplements will raise the monthly budget.

Of course, as their weight comes off, wardrobe after wardrobe will be left behind. Once patients approach their goal weight they'll need to buy an entire new, smaller wardrobe, a significant expense (but also a joy for many.)

All of these additional expenses, however, pale in comparison with the financial cost of remaining obese, which includes
  • Medications, doctors fees and procedures
  • Food expense
  • Hiring others to do tasks you cannot do
  • Limited opportunities for high-paying jobs: (The Council of Size & Weight Discrimination estimates that heavier-than-average workers will earn $100,000 less over a 40-year career)
  • Higher insurance costs
  • Higher clothing costs
A recent report by the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services recently found that the cost of being obese, including the dollar value of years lost due to early death, was $6,518 a year for men and $8,365 a year for women.
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