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Medicare Coverage for Bariatric Weight Loss Surgeries


Medicare coverage for bariatric weight loss surgery is available for individuals eligible due to morbid obesity. When it comes to fighting obesity, weight-loss surgery is known as one of the most efficient approaches. Today, nearly 40% of US adults are obese, an estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity increases many pressing health risks; that may significantly decrease a person’s quality of life and shorten their lifespan.

Does Medicare Cover Bariatric Weight Loss Surgery?

As the obesity issue grows, so does the demand for Medicare coverage for bariatric weight loss surgery. Although Medicare only considers approval for bariatric surgery procedures that are approved by the FDA.

Although Medicare pays for some bariatric procedures, the program decides denial or approval of benefits on a case-by-case premise.

As we know, not all life situations are the same; therefore, coverage may vary from person to person. However, because so many conditions stem from morbid obesity – surgery is often medically necessary.

Medicare includes different types of bariatric weight loss surgery needed to treat obesity or related health conditions. Gastric Bypass surgery is one of the oldest weight loss procedures that the program covers in the US.

Unfortunately, obesity has become a national epidemic. At the rate we’re going – by the year 2030, about half American adults will be obese.

Nutrition expert Dr. Lawrence spoke on the issue, “it’s alarming”, he went on “we’re going to have some pretty awful problems; medically and financially because so many people weigh too much.”

How Long Does it Take Medicare to Approve Bariatric Surgery?

On average, it may take 3-4 months for Medicare to approve bariatric surgery. However, this timeframe may vary depending on health conditions and severity.

What are the Requirements for Medicare to Cover Bariatric Surgery?

The approval process begins after meeting the FDA standards. Medicare requirements are comparable to most major insurance provider conditions. Including a referral from your doctor stating the medical necessity for surgery. Qualifications include having a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or higher with at least one relating health condition (such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol).

The FDA also requires medical documentation or health records stating a patient battled obesity during the past five years. Before approval, you must have records that prove you tried at least one medically supervised weight loss program.

Throughout the duration, you must fully engage and actively strive to lose weight within the program. You must also show proof you tried and failed (at least one) supervised weight loss program – typically provided by your doctor.

Other Medicare requirements for bariatric surgery include blood testing (thyroid, adrenal, and pituitary); and a psychological evaluation.

What are the Medicare Comorbidities for Bariatric Surgery?

Comorbidities are health conditions that relate to another health problem. Sometimes, this means one health issue caused another problem. Medicare comorbidities for bariatric surgery may include type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, hypertension, joint or back pain, soft tissue infections, and more.

Does Medicare Cover Gastric Bypass Surgery?

Yes, after an obesity screening with a BMI test and counseling Medicare may cover gastric bypass surgery. However, you must meet the criteria for morbid obesity and satisfy any deductible costs. Part A helps cover the inpatient hospital expenses; if surgery is an outpatient procedure, Part B helps pay 80% of costs for doctor services and supplies. Part D will cover any prescription medications that your doctor prescribes after surgery.

There are still other out of pocket costs, as the remaining 20% under Part B and both the Part A and B deductible. A Medicare Supplement plan would cover most, if not all, of this expense.

Does Medicare Cover Gastric Sleeve Surgery?

Medicare does cover gastric sleeve surgery when available in your service area. The level of coverage also depends on whether you’re getting care as an inpatient or outpatient. Gastric sleeve surgery removes and separates about 85% of the stomach, and then the remaining gets molded into a tubular shape that can’t contain much food or liquid.

Patients lose an average of 65% of extra weight after gastric sleeve surgery, which may be why it was the fastest-growing bariatric surgery in 2019.

Does Medicare Cover Duodenal Switch Surgery?

The Duodenal Switch is one of the newer surgery options available under Medicare coverage. Like the gastric sleeve option – DS removes 70% of the stomach rather than 85%. Medicare covers Duodenal Switch, although surgeons are not as familiar with this surgery, which makes it more challenging to find the right doctor to perform your procedure.

Does Medicare Cover Lap Band Surgery?

Yes, Medicare covers lap band surgeries. The cost of benefits varies depending on several factors. Talk to your doctor and ask how much surgery may cost to plan for out-of-pocket expenses.

How Much Does Lap Band Surgery Cost?

Lap band surgery costs vary, but the average price is $15,000 in the US. Although that price is subject to increase up to $30,000. As with any surgery, complications are always a risk. Lap band removal costs are at least if not more than that amount.

Does Medicare Cover Weight Loss Revision Surgery?

Yes. Previous weight loss surgery may fail, and you may need a revision. Requesting a weight loss revision surgery may initiate many questions at first. Make sure to be open and transparent with your doctor to ensure you both agree with your condition. After your doctor recommends surgery, Medicare pays for weight loss revision surgery when it’s medically necessary.

Will a Medicare Advantage Plan Cover Weight Loss Surgery?

Coverage for any procedure with a Medicare Advantage plan can change depending on a range of circumstances. UnitedHealthcare has an Advantage plan that covers weight loss surgery after meeting the plan’s guidelines.

Advantage plans determine the level of benefits and costs of service based on the service area, health condition, and medical necessity.

Medicare Advantage beneficiaries should contact their policy directly if unsure about coverage and benefits.

Will a Medigap Policy Cover Weight Loss Surgery?

Original Medicare, often combined with Medigap, helps to cover out-of-pocket charges that come with weight loss surgery.

Whether it be overnight stays in a hospital after your procedure or the number of follow-up visits with your doctor – medical bills quickly add up and can easily become unaffordable.

If Medicare covers it, OF COURSE Medigap covers it too! Supplement insurance helps fill in the gaps for costs Medicare doesn’t pay, such as copayments, deductibles, and coinsurances.

Medicare pays for 80% of your healthcare costs, which leaves the beneficiary with a bill for the remaining 20%. Depending on how much a procedure or healthcare service costs, 20% may still be an expensive bill.

How to Get Help with Medicare Coverage for Bariatric Weight Loss Surgeries

At MedicareFAQ, we understand how seniors living on a fixed income may feel bariatric surgery is financially out of the question. Don't lose hope just yet; you still have options to explore! We can help find a supplement plan tailored to your healthcare needs. Just give us a call at the number and talk to one of our licensed agents today, get the answers you're looking for with no commitment to purchase.

Our online rate form is easy to fill out and get additional information on the supplement plans available in your area - at an affordable rate. We're not here to sell you insurance, we're here to build a relationship with our clients so they trust us with their healthcare coverage.

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Lindsay Engle

Lindsay Engle is the Medicare expert for MedicareFAQ. She has been working in the Medicare industry since 2017. She is featured in many publications as well as writes regularly for other expert columns regarding Medicare. You can also find her over on our Medicare Channel on YouTube as well as contributing to our Medicare Community on Facebook.

16 thoughts on “Medicare Coverage for Bariatric Weight Loss Surgeries

  1. Hi Nina,
    I have Medicare A & B and Champ Va as 2nd supplement. I have High Blood Pressure/High Cholesterol and sleep apnea. Do I still require a waiting period to get approved for weight loss surgery. My BMI is 36.

  2. my son is 25 and autistic. his weight is 350 lbs. He has some ruptured disc, also high blood pressure, sleep apnia. he also takes zolof for depression and meltdowns. At his age would he be elgiable? He gets social security disability for the autism. He is in college.
    thanks

  3. I had Gastric Sleeve surgery 6 years ago, , I’ve gained 30 pounds, and BMI is 40. Will Medicare pay for a second weight loss procedure?

    1. Hi Brook! This is something handled on a case-by-case basis. Yes, Medicare could cover a second surgery. Make sure your doctor knows what documentation Medicare needs to get the procedure approved again.

  4. Hi Lindsay:
    I’m going to get Medicare benefits after June 29 this year. I need some orientation about what Medicare covers the gastric bypass, I really appreciate your response.
    Thank you

    1. Hi Ivelisse! Do you have any specific questions that the article did not answer? You can always give us a call to speak directly to a licensed agent that can go over specifics on gastric bypass and Medicare coverage!

  5. I am even more confused now than before- just earlier today I read an article on what Medicare covers and it said it only covers the lap band and the gastric bypass. It said it DOES NOT cover the sleeve. I am only 8 days away from my surgery date and am afraid to go ahead with it when I am unsure it will be covered by Medicare.

  6. My mom qualifies for the gastric sleeve, but is expected to pay for the nutritionist visits. She currently sees a dietician for diabetes management and these visits are covered. Why wouldn’t the nutritionist visits be covered in order for her to have the gastric sleeve procedure?

    1. Hi Holly! This is a great question! I would think it all comes down to what’s considered “medically necessary.” If the doctor says the nutritionist visits are medically necessary for the gastric sleeve surgery, I would think Medicare should cover it. As you stated above, it’s the same scenario as diabetes management with the dietician. What I would suggest is calling Medicare directly and speak to them. They may be able to offer some guidance, it could be as simple as your doctor putting in the right CPT codes that will tell Medicare it’s medically necessary and they will cover it. I hope this helps!

      1. I have traditional Medicare A,B, & D with Medicaid as my secondary. My BMI is 48. I’m diabetic with hypertension, obstructive sleep apnea (CPAP), hyperlipidemia, & more. I had a failed 6 month medically monitored diet from 8/19-2/20. Will I be required to do another 6 month diet monitoring with Medicare? How long is the approval process? Thanks! Nina

      2. Hi Nina! Most of the time, you only need to show proof you tried and failed once. It will depend on the documentation your doctor provides. Most approval processes are complete within 60 days. I hope this helps!

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