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A Shift in Access: Bariatric Surgery Is Now Easier Than Ever to Get

A Shift in Access: Bariatric Surgery Is Now Easier Than Ever to Get

April 22, 2024 | WEIGHT LOSS

A significant shift is underway in obesity treatment, driven by concerns over the long-term costs of medical weight loss injections like Wegovy, Ozempic, and Zepbound. In response, many insurance companies are reassessing their coverage policies, potentially making bariatric surgery more accessible than ever before.

Let’s break it down.

Prescription weight loss medications like Wegovy, Ozempic, and Zepbound are GLP-1 agonists that have been hailed as promising treatments for obesity. However, their high costs—Wegovy alone can set you back $1350 for a 28-day supply—have raised questions about their long-term affordability. On the flip side, bariatric surgery, with an average cost ranging from $17,000 to $26,000, is proving to be a more cost-effective solution in the long run. Studies indicate that insurers can recoup these costs within just a few years due to reduced healthcare expenses associated with obesity-related conditions.

In response to this shifting cost-benefit equation, some insurers are revising their policies and making it easier to get coverage for bariatric surgery. Some insurers have expanded eligibility criteria for bariatric surgery, while others have dropped prior authorization requirements for certain services, including bariatric procedures.

Reconsidering Obesity Treatment Strategies

This trend reflects a broader reconsideration of obesity treatment strategies. While weight loss injections are covered by most major health insurers, they often come with prior authorization requirements or trials of other therapies. Moreover, some employers have even denied coverage for these medications, and Medicare doesn’t cover them at all. In contrast, bariatric surgery, once subject to stringent coverage conditions, is now being viewed more favorably as insurers recognize its cost-effectiveness in the long-term.

The decision to ease access to bariatric surgery isn’t solely driven by cost considerations. Physicians emphasize the profound medical benefits of surgery, which extend beyond weight loss to the management of comorbidities associated with obesity. This perspective underscores the enduring efficacy of bariatric procedures in addressing the multifaceted challenges of obesity.


The Evolving Bariatric Landscape

Looking ahead, the equation of cost and benefit in obesity treatment is likely to keep evolving. The emergence of new medications and treatment modalities may further reshape the landscape, potentially offering more tailored and cost-effective solutions. However, amidst these changes, the enduring value of bariatric surgery as a durable and comprehensive intervention remains evident.

Ultimately, the focus on expanding access to bariatric surgery reflects a broader shift in how we view and approach obesity treatment. It’s not just about appearance or behavior; it’s about recognizing obesity as a chronic medical condition and exploring a range of rational treatment options.

As we navigate this evolving landscape, collaboration between bariatric surgeons and medical obesity specialists becomes increasingly important. With more tools at our disposal, we’re entering a new era of integrated approaches to obesity treatment, guided by evidence-based strategies and a commitment to improving patient outcomes.

While the full impact of eased bariatric restrictions remains to be seen, the shifting dynamics of insurance coverage signal a positive step towards making effective obesity treatment more accessible to those who need it most.


Learn More About Your Weight Loss Options 

As obesity treatments evolve, it’s essential to understand your options. If you’re in North Seattle or Everett, WA, in the Pacific Northwest and considering weight loss treatment, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Our team can provide guidance and support to help you find the right path towards lasting weight loss and a healthier lifestyle. Contact us to schedule a consultation and learn more about the treatment options available to you.

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