UPDATED: October 13, 2022

If you are struggling with obesity, weight loss surgery can be a great option to improve your health.  But for many people in the United States, the cost of weight loss surgery can be prohibitive. Because of this, many people who have been advised by their doctor that they need weight loss surgery are unable to get the treatment they need.

If weight loss surgery is something that you are considering, it can cost you tens of thousands of dollars if you do not have medical insurance. Even if you have insurance, your plan may not cover the full amount and you may have to pay thousands of dollars to get through the procedure.

However, there are options for those with lower incomes that can still provide relief from obesity-related health problems. 

What is the Cost of Weight Loss Surgery in the United States?

Weight loss surgery can be a life-saving procedure but it can be very expensive. In the United States, medical insurance covers most of the weight loss surgery procedures. But what if you are a low-income person without insurance?

How much will weight loss surgery cost if you do not have medical insurance or if your insurance will not cover the cost? Below are some of the approximate costs of weight loss surgeries in America.

  • Cost of gastric bypass surgery without insurance: $20,000 to $25,000
  • Cost of adjustable gastric band without insurance: $10,000 to $20,000
  • Cost of gastric sleeve or sleeve gastrectomy without insurance: $15,000 to $25,000
  • Cost of BPD/DS or biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch: $20,000 to $30,000

Take note that these costs are just approximate costs and may vary depending on your state, the type of hospital you choose, the surgeon, and other fees associated with the surgery.

Free or Affordable Weight Loss Surgery Options

If you are interested in weight loss surgery but do not have medical insurance or if it is too expensive for you to pay out-of-pocket, there are still options available for you.

We've compiled a list of low-cost options to reduce the financial burden on those who need it most. We will explore what these options are, provide some basic information, and how they might work for you.

1. Government Aid

If you are a low-income individual, you may be eligible to get bariatric surgery through Medicaid or Medicare. This means that the United States federal government can help pay for your surgery.

To qualify for these government-funded weight loss surgeries, you have to meet eligibility requirements and complete the application process. There may also be a waiting period, meaning you cannot immediately get financial assistance even if you have already qualified.

Medicaid may cover gastric bypass surgery for low-income individuals. But this is usually only covered in extreme cases. There are also a lot of requirements to get coverage. For instance, you have to present medical proof that this weight loss surgery is your only option to reduce weight.

For individuals over 65 years old, Medicare may cover bariatric surgery if you meet the requirements. It is also required that you first meet your deductibles before Medicare will cover the cost of the surgery.

2. Charity Care

Another option for low-income individuals to get weight loss surgery for free or for a very low cost is to apply for Charity Care at their local hospital. Again, you have to meet several requirements before being accepted including but not limited to the following:

  • falling within the federal poverty level with proof of income
  • weight loss surgery has to be health-related, not cosmetic
  • having one comorbidity

This charity care option is usually very limited but it's worth checking in your area i this is available to you.

3. Weight Loss Surgery Foundation of America (WLSFA) Grants

WLSFA is a volunteer charitable organization that provides free weight loss surgery grants to qualified individuals. The grants can help people who are not insured to get free weight loss surgery or at least help them pay for the cost of their surgeries.

In order to qualify for a surgery grant from the Weight Loss Surgery Foundation of America's surgery, you must meet these three requirements:

  • Your doctor has approved you for weight-loss surgery.
  • You do not have health insurance or your provider has denied you partial or full coverage for getting weight loss surgery.
  • You must donate time and resources to the WLSFA to raise 10% of the funds for your weight loss surgery.

4. Clinical Trials 

If you need free weight loss surgery but you are running out of options, you may want to consider participating in clinical trials that may provide free surgeries. Clinical trials are research studies that aim to discover and test new drugs, medical treatments, procedures, or devices.

You can search for lists of weight loss studies or clinical trials online that you can qualify for. These weight loss clinical trials may help you get weight loss surgery for free if they approve your application. However, it is important to be aware of the possible risks involved in this type of weight loss study.

Some of the online sites where you could start your search are the following:

5. Medical Tourism

It is no secret that the costs of weight loss surgeries in the United States like gastric bypass,  sleeve gastrectomy, and lap band surgery are high. This may be a deterrent for some people who want to undergo the surgery.

However, there are countries around the world where you can get weight loss surgery done at a fraction of the cost. In the U.S., That's why medical tourism is becoming an increasingly popular option for people who want to get weight loss surgery but do not have medical insurance or cannot afford the high costs associated with

For instance, many Americans who do not have medical insurance choose to travel to Mexico for gastric bypass surgery. The cost of weight loss surgery in Mexico can be as low as $3000 to $10,000, which is a fraction of what you would pay for the same surgery in the U.S.

Aside from Mexico, other popular countries where you can get weight loss surgery for 25% to 50% of the cost are South Korea, Thailand, India, Poland, and Germany.

6. Medical Loans

Medical loans can help you get weight loss surgery if you do not have the medical insurance or extra funds to help you pay for the procedure. There are many different types of loans that you can get but in order to get approved, you also have to meet certain requirements. 

Some examples of medical loans you can take out are:

  • Secured loans – a secured medical loan is a loan that is backed by an asset, such as a home or car. If you are willing to put your property on the line to borrow money.
  • Unsecured loans – An unsecured medical loan does not require collateral and is based on the creditworthiness of the borrower. If you are low-income but you have a good credit score, you may be able to get one.
  • Retirement loans- If you have a retirement account, you may be eligible to take out a 401(k) loan and use the money for the surgery.

7. Crowdfunding

There are sites like GoFundMe and YouCaring where you can raise money for weight loss surgery. These sites are free to use and they allow people to request monetary donations from other users, friends, family members, churches, charities organizations, etc.

There is no guarantee that you will be successful in crowdfunding, but it is definitely worth a try if you are struggling to pay for weight loss surgery.

Some things to keep in mind before starting a crowdfunding campaign are:

  • Make sure you have a goal and that your goal is realistic. Outline the exact costs needed to cover your weight loss surgery. 
  • Create a storyboard or video that tells your weight loss story and why you want to undergo the surgery.
  • Make sure to promote your campaign on social media and through email.

Getting Free Weight Loss Surgery Is Not Impossible

Weight loss surgery can help you drastically improve your weight and health. If you are financially unable to pay for weight loss surgery, there are still options available to you. You can try one of the methods listed above or a combination of them to get the surgery that you need.