New Research Shows Surgery is Cost Effective

January 01, 2013

The decision to have weight loss surgery is sometimes a difficult one, and often financial concerns are a primary consideration for patients. At NYU Langone Weight Management Program, we recognize that paying for surgery is difficult for many patients, especially for those without insurance or whose insurance carrier has denied coverage. We also want patients to know that investing in their health makes financial sense. The results of several studies have recently shown that bariatric surgery procedures are cost-effective, and even cost-saving in some cases.

Last year, a study showed that surgery is cost-effective for mildly obese people, in addition to those who are more severely obese. In the United States, the threshold for benefit from a procedure is $50,000 per quality-adjusted life year (QALY), which is defined as a year of human life with some adjustments for disease or disability. This means that it's assumed that a person would be willing to pay up to $50,000 for an additional year of a healthy life. Any cost less than the $50,000 is said to be cost-effective. The researchers found that for those with a Body Mass index (BMI) of 50 or greater, the cost per QALY was negative, meaning that the cost of weight loss surgery is less than the medical costs associated with not having the surgery. For BMI of 40-50, the cost per QALY was about $1,900 if the person had an obesity-related disease and about $3,800 for those who were healthy - both well below the limit of $50,000. Lastly, for BMI of 35-40, the cost per QALY was only about $2,400 for those with related medical problems and $3,900 for those who were healthy.

Additionally, research presented at The Obesity Society's annual conference in September showed that weight loss surgery in patients without diabetes was cost-effective in six different studies. For patients with diabetes, surgery was actually cost-saving in 3 of 5 studies analyzed, and in the other 2 studies, surgery was considered "very cost-effective" for patients with diabetes. Studies such as these show that while surgery is a relatively large investment up-front, the health and financial benefits will be worth it in the long run. You can learn more about your options for paying for surgery on our website by attending a free informational session, or by scheduling a consultation at 866-886-4698 (4NYU).