Approximately 1 in 11 adults in the United States have severe obesity. For some people, obesity can lead to serious health conditions despite dieting, exercise, and medications.

When other weight loss techniques don’t help improve health, doctors may suggest surgery to help reduce the size of an individual’s stomach. Referred to as bariatric surgeries, these procedures are designed to help individuals lose weight quickly. One of those available surgeries is gastric sleeve surgery.

If a doctor or healthcare professional has suggested gastric sleeve surgery, you may be wondering if it’s affordable. While you’ll want to talk with your insurance and medical team to determine your exact out-of-pocket surgery cost, we’ve gathered information to help you prepare mentally and financially for all the expenses that may arise with a gastric sleeve weight loss surgery.

Gastric sleeve surgery is a minimally invasive procedure done under general anesthesia.

About 80% of the outer part of the stomach is removed during a gastric sleeve surgery, including most of the portion that produces the hormones responsible for feelings of hunger. The remaining 20% is stapled or sutured together to create a new banana-shaped stomach.

Gastric sleeve surgery typically takes around an hour in the operating room.

Gastric sleeve surgery prices can range greatly depending on the location you plan to have the surgery done, the surgeon’s level of experience, and the number of days you need to stay in the hospital.

A 2017 study considering the price of bariatric surgery found that the mean price for these procedures was $14,389 with prices ranging from $7,423 to $33,541. Many insurance companies will cover at least part of the cost if there’s a serious health condition present related to the individual’s obesity.

In order for Medicare to consider covering a gastric sleeve procedure, an individual will need to have:

  • a body mass index (BMI) greater than 35
  • at least one serious health condition related to their obesity
  • prior unsuccessful attempts to control obesity with other medical treatments

One other thing to keep in mind is that most forms of insurance don’t cover cosmetic surgery.

So, if you decide to have an additional surgery to remove excess skin after losing weight from your gastric sleeve surgery, this may not be covered.

Gastric sleeve weight loss surgery is typically only considered when medications along with steps to improve your diet and exercise habits haven’t resulted in health improvements.

Doctors may consider gastric sleeve surgery for those with a BMI of 40 or higher. They may also consider it when an individual has a BMI of 35 and at least one significant obesity-related health condition such as sleep apnea, heart disease, or type 2 diabetes.

Before approving a gastric sleeve surgery, a doctor may require you to meet with a dietitian and mental health professional. You may have copays and out-of-pocket expenses associated with this.

You’ll need to undergo lab tests to determine that your heart and gastrointestinal tract are healthy enough for surgery. A doctor may also order lab tests to have a better idea of your overall health prior to surgery. The amount you have to pay for this will depend on your health insurance plan.

Unlike gastric band surgery, a sleeve gastrectomy is a permanent procedure and can’t be reversed.

A doctor will discuss this with you before undergoing the procedure to make sure this is the right bariatric surgery for you.

After the surgery, you can expect to spend several hours in recovery as you’re monitored waking up from the anesthetic. Following a gastric sleeve surgery, you may spend a few days in the hospital.

The recovery period required for a gastric sleeve surgery will likely add to the cost, as you’ll probably be unable to work for at least some period of time. (Most people can return to work in 1 to 2 weeks, but this will depend on how your recovery is going and your job requirements.)

You’ll also need to stick to a doctor-approved diet and exercise plan after the procedure. While you may be eating less, high quality food and food supplements can be expensive.

If you choose to work with a personal trainer, therapist, or dietician following the surgery, this can lead to additional costs. You may also need to spend money on new clothes that best fit you, which can be expensive.

One other thing to keep in mind is you’ll need long-term follow-up with a doctor after this procedure, so there will be ongoing medical costs related to blood tests and doctor visits.

The cost of gastric sleeve weight loss surgery can vary greatly depending on your insurance, location, and even how quickly you can return to work after the procedure. You may wish to compare pricing with a few different insurance providers if you’re hoping to keep the cost down.

It’s important to keep in mind that even if it’s affordable, not everyone will be a good match for this procedure. Before undergoing any surgery, it’s important to speak with a doctor about the options available to you.