Connect with a U.S. licensed healthcare provider about ED, hair loss, skincare, and more. Start now.

May 06, 2021
7 min read

How much does gastric bypass surgery cost?

Gastric bypass surgery is a weight loss treatment covered by many insurance companies. It can be expensive but yields benefits like significant weight loss and better blood sugar control for people with both obesity and diabetes.

Reviewed by Yael Cooperman, MD

Written by Cale Li, MD

Disclaimer

If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Gastric bypass is the most common type of weight loss surgery in the United States. While it can be expensive, the procedure may lead to long-term savings down the road for both you and your insurance provider if you have one.

Many insurance companies cover gastric bypass for eligible individuals. To be eligible, your health insurance requires certain criteria to be met, such as having a body mass index over 40. 

Here’s what you need to know about gastric bypass surgery, how much it costs, and if it’s a good option for you.

ADVERTISEMENT

Meet Plenity—an FDA-cleared weight management tool

Plenity is a prescription-only therapy that helps you manage your weight while still enjoying your meals. Find out if it’s right for you.

Learn more

How much does gastric bypass surgery cost?

The cost of gastric bypass surgery varies from person to person and. It also depends on your insurance coverage and where you get the procedure done.

On average, gastric bypass surgery costs around $14,000, which includes the procedure and hospital stay costs (Doble, 2017). Medicaid and Medicare may also cover bariatric surgery for eligible individuals. 

And while gastric bypass surgery can be expensive, not having this operation may be more expensive than the procedure itself in the long run.

After the procedure, people reported lower medical expenses in the following years and relied on fewer medications for other health conditions like asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes, and acid reflux. One study that looked at patients after gastric bypass found a 50% decrease in medication use six months after surgery (Kennedy, 2014). 

Are there additional costs I can expect after surgery?

After you recover from surgery, there can be additional costs that might crop up. These could come from medications for treating complications, follow-up visits with healthcare providers, and emergency room visits. 

Some patients also pay for additional procedures like body contouring, a type of plastic surgery procedure that removes excess skin left over after the rapid weight loss that usually comes after bariatric surgery.

Some insurance companies will participate in the costs of these procedures as well, but this is something you should discuss with your healthcare provider and insurance company beforehand (Balague, 2013).

Am I eligible for gastric bypass surgery? 

Gastric bypass may be recommended for individuals who meet one of the following criteria (Stahl, 2020):

  • A body mass index (BMI) equal to or greater than 40. Body mass index is a measurement of body fat using height and weight. A BMI equal to or greater than 25 is considered overweight. A BMI equal to or greater than 30 is considered obese.
  • A BMI equal to or greater than 35, along with a medical condition linked to obesity, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, asthma, acid reflux, or liver disease.
  • People with diabetes and a BMI between 30 and 35. 

The best way to find out if you’re covered for gastric bypass surgery is to speak with your healthcare provider and insurance provider.

How does gastric bypass work for weight loss? 

Gastric bypass is an effective treatment for weight loss. The amount of weight lost varies from person to person, but on average, people report shedding roughly 30% of their total body weight after surgery (Wolfe, 2017). 

Most weight loss happens within the first three years, but people generally keep off about 28% of their initial body weight 10 years out (Duvoisin, 2018). 

How exactly does it work? Gastric bypass has two steps. First, a large portion of the stomach is removed. The stomach is then reshaped into a smaller pouch that holds less food. Then, the stomach is reconnected to a different part of the small intestine, bypassing regions where nutrient absorption happens (Mitchell, 2020). 

Following the surgery, you should feel full after eating less food, and your digestive system will be able to absorb fewer calories from the food you eat.

Bypass surgery helps with weight loss but can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Your healthcare provider may recommend adding dietary supplements like iron, folic acid, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 (Schijns, 2018).

Gastric bypass vs. other weight loss surgeries

When it comes to bariatric surgery for weight loss, there are other options too. Gastric sleeve (also known as sleeve gastrectomy) is a popular choice. Like gastric bypass, this procedure reshapes the stomach into a smaller pouch.

However, with sleeve gastrectomies, the order of the digestive system isn’t rearranged (Mitchell, 2020). This makes for a simpler procedure. Both procedures are similar in terms of length of operation and rate of serious complications (Lager, 2017).

When it comes to cost, gastric sleeve surgery is similar to gastric bypass. In the long-term, bypass surgery was more cost-effective when factoring in costs after surgery, like any additional treatments or health-related expenses (Alsumali, 2018). 

Benefits of gastric bypass surgery

In addition to weight loss, gastric bypass can help improve associated conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol. 

Most notably, people have reversed type 2 diabetes following weight loss surgery (Wolfe, 2017). 

Many also see a significant improvement in quality of life in the year after surgery. Most commonly reported were better physical function, a more active social life, and independence in daily activities like bathing (Major, 2015). 

Are there non-surgical options to treat obesity?

Gastric bypass surgery works, but it’s not the best option for everyone. 

For those who don’t want surgery or have other conditions that make them unsuitable candidates for surgery, lifestyle adjustments and medical treatments can help. 

These options are less effective than weight loss surgery but don’t have the risks associated with surgery like infection and bleeding (Gloy, 2013). Here are some popular non-surgical options for losing weight. 

Dieting

Weight loss is essentially about simple math. To lose weight, you need to take in fewer calories than you burn. While it can be challenging to stay on track with most diets for weight loss, there are tools out there (like support groups and smartphone apps) to keep you on track. Experts recommend eating a net deficit of 600 calories a day for sustainable weight loss.  

Low carb diets are associated with weight loss more so than low fat or high protein diets. Diet therapy doesn’t work for everyone as it can be easy to gain weight back if you don’t keep up with your new diet (Ruban, 2019). 

Phentermine/topiramate

Phentermine was one of the first weight loss medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Today, it’s given in combination with topiramate, a seizure and nerve pain drug. 

Phentermine/topiramate works by decreasing your appetite and increasing the amount of energy your body uses. One study found that after six months, patients on phentermine/topiramate therapy reported roughly 10% in weight loss.  

Side effects of phentermine/topiramate may include a fast pulse, insomnia, increased blood pressure, and dry mouth (Tchang, 2020). 

Orlistat

Orlistat is a medication that works by blocking fat absorption in the small intestines. 

Research has found taking a 120 mg dose of orlistat three times a day led to roughly a 30% decrease in fat absorption. Orlistat may also improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Side effects of orlistat may include vitamin deficiencies (particularly vitamin D and E) and digestive discomfort (Tchang, 2020). 

Liraglutide

Liraglutide is a medication generally used to treat diabetes and is approved to treat obesity as well. It works by suppressing hunger, which reduces how much food you eat. 

In addition to weight loss, liraglutide also improves blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. Liraglutide also decreases the risk of heart disease and stroke in those with type 2 diabetes. Common side effects of this medication include nausea, vomiting, and low blood sugar (Tchang, 2020). 

The best way to determine if you’re eligible for gastric bypass surgery is to inquire with a bariatric surgeon and speak with your insurance provider. If surgery isn’t an option, medications and dietary changes are alternative ways to improve weight loss.

References

  1. Alsumali, A., Eguale, T., Bairdain, S., & Samnaliev, M. (2018). Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of Bariatric Surgery for Morbid Obesity. Obesity Surgery, 28(8), 2203–2214. doi: 10.1007/s11695-017-3100-0. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29335933/
  2. Balagué, N., Combescure, C., Huber, O., Pittet-Cuénod, B., & Modarressi, A. (2013). Plastic surgery improves long-term weight control after bariatric surgery. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 132(4), 826–833. doi: 0.1097/PRS.0b013e31829fe531. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24076675/
  3. Doble, B., Wordsworth, S., Rogers, C. A., Welbourn, R., Byrne, J., Blazeby, J. M., & By-Band-Sleeve Trial Management Group. (2017). What Are the Real Procedural Costs of Bariatric Surgery? A Systematic Literature Review of Published Cost Analyses. Obesity Surgery, 27(8), 2179–2192. doi: 10.1007/s11695-017-2749-8. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28550438/
  4. Duvoisin, C., Favre, L., Allemann, P., Fournier, P., Demartines, N., & Suter, M. (2018). Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass: Ten-year Results in a Cohort of 658 Patients. Annals of Surgery, 268(6), 1019–1025. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000002538. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29194086/
  5. Gloy, V. L., Briel, M., Bhatt, D. L., Kashyap, S. R., Schauer, P. R., Mingrone, G., Bucher, H. C., & Nordmann, A. J. (2013). Bariatric surgery versus non-surgical treatment for obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. British Medical Journal, 347, f5934. doi: 10.1136/bmj.f5934. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24149519/
  6. Kennedy, A. L., Nelson, T., Pettine, S., Miller, B. F., Hamilton, K. L., & Donovan, E. L. (2014). Medication use following bariatric surgery: factors associated with early discontinuation. Obesity Surgery, 24(5), 696–704. doi: 10.1007/s11695-013-1131-8. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4016176/
  7. Lager, C. J., Esfandiari, N. H., Subauste, A. R., Kraftson, et al. (2017). Roux-En-Y Gastric Bypass Vs. Sleeve Gastrectomy: Balancing the Risks of Surgery with the Benefits of Weight Loss. Obesity Surgery, 27(1), 154–161. doi: 10.1007/s11695-016-2265-2. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27342739/
  8. Ma, I. T., & Madura, J. A., 2nd (2015). Gastrointestinal Complications After Bariatric Surgery. Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 11(8), 526–535. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27118949/
  9. Major, P., Matłok, M., Pędziwiatr, M., Migaczewski, M., Budzyński, P., Stanek, M., Kisielewski, M., Natkaniec, M., & Budzyński, A. (2015). Quality of Life After Bariatric Surgery. Obesity Surgery, 25(9), 1703–1710. doi: 10.1007/s11695-015-1601-2. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25676156/
  10. Mitchell, B. G., & Gupta, N. (2020). Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass. StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing. Retrieved March 2, 2021 from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31985950/
  11. Mognol, P., Chosidow, D., & Marmuse, J. P. (2005). Laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy as an initial bariatric operation for high-risk patients: initial results in 10 patients. Obesity Surgery, 15(7), 1030–1033. doi: 10.1381/0960892054621242. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16105402/
  12. Ruban, A., Stoenchev, K., Ashrafian, H., & Teare, J. (2019). Current treatments for obesity. Clinical Medicine (London, England), 19(3), 205–212. doi: 10.7861/clinmedicine.19-3-205. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6542229/
  13. Stahl JM, Malhotra S. (2020) Obesity Surgery Indications And Contraindications. StatPearls. Retrieved on March 6, 2020 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513285/#_NBK513285_pubdet_
  14. Tchang, B. G., Kumar, R. B., & Aronne, L. J. (2020). Pharmacologic Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults. In K. R. Feingold (Eds.) et. al., Endotext. MDText.com, Inc. Retrieved March 21, 2021 from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25905267/
  15. Wolfe, B. M., Kvach, E., & Eckel, R. H. (2016). Treatment of Obesity: Weight Loss and Bariatric Surgery. Circulation Research, 118(11), 1844–1855. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.116.307591. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4888907/