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4 Ways to Finance Weight Loss Surgery

Weight-loss surgery, also known as bariatric surgery, helps patients lose weight by changing the structure of their digestive system. This might be done by making the stomach smaller so the person feels full faster and eats well. Or it may be done by circumventing most of the small intestine so the body absorbs fewer calories.

This type of surgery is usually seen as a last resort for those with severe obesity who are not able to lose and keep weight off using other methods like diet or medication. Bariatric surgery also may be indicated to address health problems related to obesity, such as type 2 diabetes.

If you’re pursuing or considering this kind of treatment, keep reading to learn about the costs and financing for weight loss surgery.

How much does weight loss surgery cost?

Weight-loss surgery is pricey, usually costing between $15,000 and $25,000, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The cost varies depending on factors like:

  • Type of procedure you and your doctor opt for
  • Method of payment you are using
  • Your medical insurance plan
  • Where you live

Many health insurance plans, including Medicare and some Medicaid programs, will cover these operations when medically appropriate.

Types of weight loss surgery

There are four types of bariatric operations most often done in the U.S. Three are common: gastric band, gastric bypass and gastric sleeve. The fourth, duodenal switch, is performed less often. The surgeries all operate in similar ways, but use different methods.

  • Gastric band: Laparoscopic adjustable gastric band surgery is the least invasive variety. The surgeon places an inflatable band around the top of the patient’s stomach, making it so the patient feels full after eating a small amount of food.
  • Gastric sleeve: In a vertical sleeve gastrectomy, otherwise known as gastric sleeve surgery, the surgeon cuts out about 80% of the patient’s stomach, turning it into a long pouch instead of a roundish organ. This reduces how much food a person can eat, making them feel full faster.
  • Gastric bypass: Also called Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, gastric bypass surgery involves reducing the size of the patient’s stomach and then connecting it directly the lower portion of the small intestine. Not only does this make a patient eat less, it also prevents most of the calories from being absorbed by the body.
  • Duodenal switch: Duodenal switch, also called biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch, is more complicated and riskier, but allows for greater weight loss. This surgery starts with a procedure similar to gastric sleeve surgery and then involves attaching the small stomach to the lower section of the small intestine and accessing the bypassed section to allow for the inclusion of digestive juices.

What to consider when getting weight loss surgery

Although your insurance may cover the cost of bariatric surgery, you may still be responsible for a deductible or out-of-pocket amount. And if you don’t have insurance or if your plan won’t cover the operation, you’ll have to finance the entire cost yourself.

However, there are many things to consider before financing weight loss surgery, including:

  • Whether your insurance will pay for the procedure
  • Whether the insurance-approved providers and facilities are suitable
  • How your credit will affect your financing options
  • Your current debt load
  • Whether you will be able to handle more debt

Health insurance plans will often pay for weight loss surgery for individuals whose doctors deem it medically necessary. However, many of them have requirements for the procedure, such as having patients prove that other weight loss methods have failed. Insurance providers may also restrict the providers and facilities to which patients can go to for the procedure.

How much of the procedure’s cost an insurance plan will cover depends on the insurance provider and the details of the plan. The three most common procedures are usually covered by Medicare and some Medicaid programs if a doctor recommends surgery.

4 weight loss surgery financing options

Weight loss surgery financing options Best for …
Medical loan Those with good-to-excellent credit
In-house financing Those who want fast, accessible financing for medical needs at slightly higher rates
Secured personal loan Those with less-than-perfect credit and who have something of value for collateral
Credit card Those with no access to other forms of financing

1. Medical loan

A medical loan is a personal loan that is used to cover medical costs. They can be obtained through banks, credit unions and online lenders. Depending on your lender and eligibility for funds, you’ll get to choose how much you borrow and your repayment term. With fixed rates, a medical loan offers predictable payments.

As an unsecured loan, you don’t need collateral to qualify. However, your credit will be weighed more heavily, meaning this option is best for those with strong credit. Although you may qualify for a medical loan with OK or bad credit, you’ll likely find sky-high rates. For borrowers with credit scores over 720, the average APR was 7.27% in Q1 2019, according to a LendingTree study on personal loans. Subprime borrowers saw an average 85.92% APR.

Many lenders allow you to submit to a soft credit check (which won’t affect your score) to help you determine whether you’d qualify and for which kind of terms. This can help you determine whether it’s a viable option for weight loss financing.

How to qualify: Medical loans typically require good-to-excellent credit. Applicants need to provide self-identifying and financial information, such as their Social Security number and income information, and submit to a credit check. Expect to provide supporting documentation.

2. In-house financing

Some health care facilities offer in-house financing via a third-party program, such as CareCredit, a healthcare credit card. With this type of financing, you’ll apply for credit directly with the third party and make monthly installments until your billed medical costs are repaid.

This type of financing is easy to access and may be a cheaper alternative to a medical loan depending on your credit and how much you borrow. Although CareCredit’s variable APR is around 27%, larger purchases come with lower rates. And you may qualify for promotional financing. With CareCredit, you’ll pay no interest if your balance is repaid in full within 6, 12, 18 or 24 months. (Fail to do so, however, and you’ll be hit with deferred interest.)

That said, this option may be best for borrowers who can either repay their balance in full within the promotional period or who don’t qualify for a lower rate with another financing option.

How to qualify: Credit score requirements for in-house financing vary. Talk to your health care provider to learn about your options. At the very least, you’ll be asked personal identifying information and submit to a credit check to determine your eligibility.

3. Secured personal loan

Unlike with a traditional personal loan, a secured personal loan requires you to put down collateral to qualify. This collateral may include funds you have in a savings account or certificate of deposit or your personal property (such as a car). Because your collateral reduces the lender’s risk, you can often qualify more easily and for lower rates than you’d find on a traditional personal loan.

Your collateral can also affect the amount you can borrow. For example, if you have $20,000 in a savings account and use it as collateral, your lender may allow you to borrow up to that amount. The benefit to you would be that you could pay for your medical procedure at a lower rate without having to empty out your savings.

How to qualify: A secured personal loan may be a good option if you have bad or OK credit but need to finance the cost of weight loss surgery; you may be able to qualify for a secured loan with a credit score as low as 500. In addition to requiring personal and financial information, the lender will ask for details about the collateral you’ll be using to secure the loan.

4. Credit card

A credit card may be another way to finance medical treatment. For borrowers with OK credit, it may be more affordable than other financing options, though the borrowing limit may be restrictive. The average credit card APR was 15.13% across all accounts in Q2 2019, according to the Federal Reserve

For borrowers with excellent credit, your typical credit card will be an expensive financing option compared to a personal loan. However, you may qualify for a card with a promotional 0% APR. Repay your balance in full before the promotional period ends, and you’d avoid paying interest on your treatment. The downside to this type of special financing is that you’d only have around 12 to 18 months to repay your balance. Depending on how much you borrow, that may not be feasible. And if you fail to pay off the card in full before the promotional period ends, you’ll be slapped with deferred interest.

That said, the viability of a credit card as a financing option relies heavily on your credit situation, how quickly you can repay your debt and the cards you qualify for. You should also consider how charging the cost of weight loss surgery will affect your debt-to-income ratio (and by extension, your credit).

How to qualify: As with other unsecured loan products, factors such as your credit, income  and current debt will be taken into account. A credit check will be required as well. We recommend exploring credit card offers and applying with a soft credit check to determine your eligibility. This can help you gauge the types of cards you may qualify for as well as determine whether this is a feasible option.

 

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