For decades, “weight loss” or bariatric surgery has been one of the most controversial methods of treating obesity. Most of us have heard stories of horrific side effects and even deaths, especially as a result of some of the earlier surgeries. Insurance companies often refused to pay for bariatric surgery, even if the patient was significantly obese and ready to take one last chance for a relatively normal life. While some health insurance companies still balk, most insurers nowadays recognize that the efficacy of well-performed bariatric surgery can save thousands of dollars in other types of insurance claims.
But health insurance approving a request for weight loss surgery is not necessarily simple. Plenty of medical studies have proven that procedures such as the gastric bypass, duodenal switch, LAP-BAND, and the sleeve gastrectomy are often safer than hysterectomies. Also, the United States National Institutes of Health recommends bariatric surgery for obese people or those who are severely overweight with serious health conditions such as diabetes.
All this scientific evidence has propelled a growing number of health insurers to cover at least part of bariatric surgery for eligible patients. But not every plan is created equally. “Bare bones” health insurance plans probably will not cover the cost of bariatric surgery, even if a doctor deems it as a serious medical necessity. Some company-insured plans will not cover the surgery. When that happens, the patient is forced to either finance it through loans and credit cards, find cash resources, appeal to her state government, or forego surgery altogether.
While bariatric surgery is risky and costly, fortunately more health insurance company representatives understand that a customer losing weight is usually a good business decision. Persistence is key to getting a resistant insurance company to become a true ally for your health.