The cost of surgery, the cost of inaction

The future cost of your healthcare isn’t necessarily the first thing you think about when looking into bariatric surgery – most people have tried to lose weight in the past and now have looked to surgery in order to help them lose weight and get rid of their weight-related medical problems.  However, the cost of healthcare is a big priority for health insurances and other healthcare industries.

So the question is – does it cost more to take care of someone who is obese, or for them to have bariatric surgery?

There have been a few studies performed trying to find the answer to this question.  One recent study looked at people between 2007 and 2008 and compared pharmacy costs among two groups of 2700 people with the diagnosis of obesity – ones that had bariatric surgery and ones that did not.  The costs were evaluated over the next 4 years.  It was noted that immediately after surgery the costs for the surgical group was higher (average of $3098 vs. $2303), but for the next 3 years, the costs became lower.  After four years the cumulative costs of medications was $8411 for the surgery group and $9900 for those who did not have surgery.  This mainly was due to the surgical group people not needing or needing less medication for chronic problems like diabetes and high blood pressure.

So at four years out, average pharmacy costs for an individual who had bariatric surgery were 22.6% lower than those who did not have bariatric surgery.  One would expect those cost savings to continue over the course of a person’s life, as conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes almost never go away and usually get worse if nothing is done to change overall health or weight.

And all this still does not take into account the changes in life that come with sustained weight loss – things that you cannot put a price tag on – the ability to move around without difficulty, extra energy, improved health.  All are things to take into consideration when deciding on bariatric surgery.

-Dr. Moon

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