If you and your doctor are discussing surgical options for weight loss, you may be considering a gastric band. Since it’s an elective surgery, cost is an important consideration.
Amino found that the median network rate for a gastric band is $7,185. Keep in mind—this is an estimate for what you and your health insurance company might pay together (combined) for the surgery. If your health insurance plan covers weight loss surgery, it will likely cover a gastric band. If your plan doesn’t cover weight loss surgery, you may have to pay the full cost out-of-pocket.
Read on to learn more about what a gastric band is, whether it's right for you, and what affects the overall cost.
What is gastric band surgery?
A gastric band is an adjustable silicone ring used to aid weight loss. Inserting the band requires a a surgical procedure where a doctor uses a laparoscope (a tiny camera inserted through small incisions in your belly) to wrap the band around the upper part of your stomach. This causes your stomach to create a pocket about one-inch wide that can only hold about an ounce of food at a time. This makes you feel full after eating only a small amount of food, which can help you lose weight. After surgery, your doctor can tighten or loosen the band to manage your side effects and weight loss.
Gastric band surgery is typically performed by a bariatric surgeon, but sometimes general surgeons do them, too. Patients are usually given general anesthesia during the procedure. Getting a gastric band is generally a safe procedure, but like any surgery, there are risks involved.
Most people are able to return home the same day as surgery, though your doctor may recommend a short hospital stay (one to two days) depending on your age and overall health. Recovery time for gastric band surgery is between one month and six weeks, though most patients can return to work after seven days.
Is a gastric band right for you?
If you have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or more or a BMI of 35 or more and a serious medical condition like Type 2 diabetes or heart disease, your doctor may recommend a gastric band. This is usually only advised if you have been unable to lose weight through diet and exercise.
Your doctor may recommend major lifestyle changes—including eating a balanced, nutritious diet and getting regular exercise—for the procedure to be safe and effective. For this reason, you may be required to see your doctor several times and go through different consultations (like nutrition counseling and a mental health exam) before being able to schedule your surgery. These costs are not included in our cost estimate for gastric band surgery.
If you’re considering a gastric band, ask your doctor whether you’re a good candidate for the procedure.
Are there alternatives to a gastric band?
Getting a gastric band is a serious surgery with some risk involved. There are non-surgical options for losing weight, including changes in diet and exercise. However, a gastric band typically isn’t recommended unless non-surgical options have proven ineffective.
There are also other types of weight loss surgery that you can discuss with your doctor, including a gastric bypass or gastric sleeve. If you’re uncertain about your doctor’s recommendations for a gastric band or any other type of weight loss surgery, don’t hesitate to ask around.
How much does a gastric band cost, and what determines the price?
Amino found that the median network rate for a gastric band is $7,185. The cost ranges across the US from $4,600 to $14,265—a huge difference. Here are some factors that could impact how much your gastric band costs:
Where you live can affect how much your surgery costs, especially since it determines which hospitals and doctors are available to you. For example, if you live in an urban area, you may have more options to choose from.
The network rate, which is what our estimates are based on, is negotiated between your health insurance company and doctor or hospital—so your insurance company and whatever provider you choose will play a large role in determining cost.
Your health insurance plan affects the cost of your surgery for a few reasons. Whether your surgeon is in-network or out-of-network can impact the overall cost. Your co-insurance and co-pay, as well as how much of your deductible you have left, can also make a difference in how much you pay out-of-pocket.
What happens during the procedure, such as what kind of anesthesia you get (and whether your anesthesiologist is in-network or out-of-network), can change the cost. Although unlikely, if an emergency arises during your surgery, you might have additional unexpected costs.
Your personal health can also play a role. Preexisting health problems could cause additional expenses.
Now that you know how much a gastric band could cost, let’s explore insurance coverage and how to get the most care for your money.
Will health insurance cover a gastric band?
Most insurers, including Medicare, will cover gastric band surgery as long as it’s deemed medically necessary by your doctor. The requirements vary per insurance plan, so make sure to ask your insurance company:
- If they cover gastric band surgery
- If you need preauthorization to have gastric band surgery covered
- What costs you may have to cover out-of-pocket
- What documentation your doctor needs to provide
To prove that the surgery is medically necessary, you may be required to complete additional screenings, including:
- Blood tests
- A complete physical exam
- Nutritional counseling
- A visit with a mental health provider (to ensure you’re prepared for a gastric band)
These additional visits are not included in our cost estimate. Make sure to ask your insurance provider whether they cover these costs and potential complications that could occur after surgery. If you don’t have insurance or if your insurance won’t cover your gastric band, you may have to pay the cost of the surgery out-of-pocket.
How to get the most for your money
Even if your insurance does cover some or most of your gastric band, you’ll likely pay some of the cost out-of-pocket. To make sure you’re getting the most (and best) care for your money:
Ask your insurance company about your costs, like co-insurance, copays, and deductibles.
Utilize your Health Savings Account (HSA), Flexible Spending Account (FSA), and Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) to cover out-of-pocket expenses.
Use Amino to compare prices for different doctors.
Look into outpatient centers—they often have more affordable surgery options.
Have a conversation with your doctor. This is especially important if you don’t have insurance and are paying for your gastric band yourself. Some doctors will offer a discount or an interest-free payment plan if they know that you’re shouldering the cost on your own.