Bills are piling up for Barbara Warnock-Morgan. After several years of diets that just didn’t work, she decided to get an adjustable gastric banding in November of 2009.
“I was the fat kid,” she said. “Over the years I yo-yo dieted my way up the scale. I’d lose 20 pounds, then gain back 30.”
Adjustable gastric banding, a form of bariatric surgery in which a silicone band is placed around the top portion of the stomach, costs $15,000 to $30,000. Though the 46-year-old, who lives in Brooklyn, was fortunate to have her insurance cover the costs, she will have to pay for body-contouring cosmetic surgery, also known as a “body lift,” to tighten up the loose skin.
Like Warnock-Morgan, more people are signing up for adjustable gastric banding, and they too are finding that there are additional costs beyond the surgery. Pre- and post-surgery procedures, high co-payments, nutritional and behavioral counseling and cosmetic surgery, could take years to pay off.
Still, the cost isn’t slowing down the rate of procedures. According to a study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, bariatric surgeries carried out in the U.S. increased by 804 percent from 1998 to 2004. The increase is due to rising obesity rates and the low risk of the surgery.
While costs may be overwhelming, Warnock-Morgan knows she made a good decision: “I feel better, and I look better. I’m happier than I have been in 25 years.”