Are you battling significant weight concerns? Do you find yourself despairing at another failed diet and/or exercise plan? Is diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea or other health concerns becoming a scary but consistent part of your life?

If so, the good news is that bariatric surgery offers a lifeline and the chance to take full control of your health.

And it’s probably more financially accessible than you think.

Longstreet Clinic bariatric surgeon Robert Richard, M.D., FACS, has helped countless patients to regain control of their health via weight loss surgery. Yet for every patient he helps, he knows there are many more missing out on a life-changing opportunity – usually because they fear they cannot afford it. That is why he encourages anyone battling serious weight concerns to check with their insurance companies, as many carriers cover bariatric surgery for those patients in need.

“The question I probably get asked more than any other is: Does my insurance cover (bariatric surgery)? And I can tell you, most insurances do cover weight loss surgery,” said Dr. Richard, who leads Longstreet Clinic’s Center for Weight Management. “We’ve recently had the State Health Benefit Plan in Georgia begin covering bariatric surgery and bariatric medical treatment again, so we’re really excited about that.”

Indeed, some of the largest and most common health insurance carriers – including Aetna, Cigna, Medicare, Humana, Anthem, and United Healthcare – have plans that will cover bariatric surgery for patients who have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or above. Insurers will also cover surgery for someone with a BMI of 35 and an obesity-related co-morbid condition including (but not limited to) type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, or a life-threatening cardio-pulmonary problems.

If you fit into either of these categories, you should talk with your insurer to see if you qualify for a procedure such as a gastric sleeve, gastric bypass, or duodenal switch, as these bariatric options are proven to help patients put obesity into remission and keep it at bay.

“The majority of our patients don’t even realize that they have coverage, that this is an option,” Dr. Richard said. “So, I think that patient needs to rethink their weight and understand what their options are.”

In the case of bariatric surgery, “remission” is the key word, as the National Institute of Health recognizes obesity as chronic disease. Bariatric surgery also offers significant remission, prevention or at least improvement in co-morbid diseases. Depending on the type of weight loss surgery chosen and the individual’s background, bariatric surgery offers remission rates for type II diabetes of between 70-85%, 65% for hypertension (and 15% improved), and 85-95% for sleep apnea. Also, a patient’s risk of cancer is cut in half, and symptoms of arthritis are much less severe after weight loss surgery.

The experienced and attentive surgeons and providers at the Center for Weight Management are always ready to help you determine if these pathways offer you a chance at a better life, including discussing options with your insurance carrier.

Even if you discover that you are not covered, Center for Weight Management providers offer other options for success.

“We do have Care Credit and Allied Bank, so we do have some credit options. And we certainly work at more than one hospital, which helps us get a lower cost for the patients for the surgical management,” Dr. Richard said.

Whatever your coverage situation, there is no reason for you to suffer with obesity. Even if you do not “look” obese in the mirror, your BMI will significantly impact your life at some point. In fact, it may even cost you more in the long term.

“Recently I was reading an article that was talking about the expenses that patients affected by obesity have. And in the article, it was talking about patients with a Body Mass Index higher than 40 tend to spend $3,000 average per year more than someone at a normal BMI,” said Center for Weight Management surgeon Eric Velazquez, M.D., MBA, FACS, FASMBS. “Now, when I see patients that don’t have coverage, and they’re thinking about paying out of pocket for this operation, I mention to them that they should look at it as an investment in themselves. Not only are you going to lose weight, but once you get healthier, that over $3,000 a year that you were spending is going to stay in your pocket. And that return on investment is going to be back in two or three years once you lose the weight.”

Weight loss surgery is not just for those who struggle with daily life, either. In fact, many of Longstreet’s bariatric patients may not look anything like the stereotypes we have built up in our minds.

“I hear a lot from patients that they believe weight loss surgery is only for that person they see on ‘My 600-lb Life.’ But I would say the majority of the patients we see are between 180 and 250 pounds, they’re high functioning, but this disease is causing significant detriment to their life,” said. Dr. Richard. “So, bariatric surgery is not just for those patients that are on the extremes – though we do treat those patients.”

If you are tired of battling obesity and are looking for a lasting meaningful solution, the caring staff at the Center for Weight Management are always eager to discuss your situation and are ready to help. To learn more, please call Longstreet Clinic’s Center for Weight Management today at 770-534-0110 or toll-free at 877-921-0110. Or you can watch our online seminar then fill out our contact form, and our weight loss team will reach out to you.

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