Obesity is a physical condition, but it also takes a financial toll on you and society at large. Today in the United States, where obesity affects at least a third of all adults, the economic burden of excess weight is over $92,000 per person. If you’re currently paying a premium for being overweight, you may prefer a one-time expense that will reduce your future costs. Weight loss surgery can be had for less than $7,000 at pristine healthcare facilities outside the United States, and the benefits extend far beyond financial savings.
How Much Does Obesity Cost?
In 1998, annual public and private expenses related to obesity averaged $78.5 billion. The cost has nearly quadrupled since then. Current estimates are as high as $305.1 billion, including the following expenses:
- $190 billion for direct medical costs (bariatric surgery, counseling, hospital visits, nursing home and hospice care)
- $65.1 billion for lost work (absenteeism, lost wages, disability payments, decreased productivity)
- $50 billion for non-medical services (behavioral training, health education, costs associated with premature death)
According to one obesity prevention study, almost a quarter of all national health care costs are preventable expenses related to obesity. Many health risks are caused or complicated by obesity, but the following conditions are among the most common and costly:
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Chronic joint problems
- High blood pressure
- Heart attacks
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Urinary incontinence
- Acid reflux
It’s no surprise that obesity costs $147 billion in annual medical expenses alone. Federal programs such as Medicare and Medicaid share the biggest piece (nearly half) of this economic toll, but individual patients are affected too.
Cost of Lost Wages & Productivity
Of course, the cost of these health conditions isn’t always direct. In addition to requiring expensive medical treatments, obesity and its related health risks also shorten average lifespans. Obesity and overweight health problems are the second leading causes of preventable deaths in the United States, preceded only by smoking. In fact, obesity is responsible for 18 percent of all deaths among white and black Americans between the ages of 45 and 85.
Premature death is just one of many reasons that obese workers earn less money during their lifetimes. Obese Americans cause 9.3 percent of all absenteeism, but they aren’t just more likely to call out sick. They also retire earlier, are less productive when they do work, and even accept less lucrative – and more physically demanding – jobs.
No one feels the disparity more than obese women in the workplace. While all women face a gender pay gap and increased standards for physical appearances, obese women also pay an “obesity penalty.” Just by gaining 65 pounds, the average woman will earn 9 percent less than her peers.
How Much Does Weight Loss Surgery Cost?
The CDC found that obese people pay $1,429 more for healthcare, but when researchers recalculated after reconsidering additional factors, they realized the annual increase was closer to $2,740. Now, there’s growing concern that lawmakers have similarly underestimated the economic benefit of obesity intervention.
In the United States, the average cost of bariatric surgery is $25,000. Weight loss treatment is considered an “essential health benefit” under the Affordable Care Act, but mandatory coverage only applies to certain plans, and eligible treatments don’t always include weight loss surgery itself. Fortunately, uninsured and underinsured patients have accessible alternative options. Weight loss surgery in Mexico at Angeles Hospital, a state-of-the-art medical facility, can cost as little as the following:
- Gastric sleeve – $6,500
- Gastric sleeve plication – $6,500
- Gastric bypass – $10,950
- Gastric band (LAP-BAND©) – $5,995
No matter which procedure is best for you, the one-time cost is certainly cheaper than a lifetime of obesity-related expenses. Instead of asking how much weight loss surgery will cost, a better question might be: how much money will it save?
When the director of the National Center for Weight & Wellness quantified the net savings of obesity treatments, he found that laparoscopic gastric bands saved each patient between $26,570 and $34,160 over the course of just five years, let alone a lifetime.
The Value of Weight Loss Solutions
If obesity rates continue to climb at their current rates, obese Americans could outnumber the rest of the population in 39 of the 50 states by 2030. The world now faces two possible futures, one of which will be drastically more expensive. Life-changing measures such as bariatric surgery don’t just reduce or eliminate additional expenses, though. They can also lead to better health, increased income, and mental health benefits.
Reduced Medical Costs
- Lower blood pressure
- Improved blood lipid levels
- Lower risk of death within the next decade
- Reduced cancer risks
- Improved glycemic control
One study also found that joint pain decreased by half in the first 6-12 months after weight loss surgery.
One benefit may make it easier to grease congressional wheels. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation appealed to lawmakers by focusing on the “long-term returns” of policies that help prevent obesity, including tax revenue from higher wages and longer, more productive careers.
Physicians now include the psychological consequences of obesity as a criteria for surgery eligibility. Patients who receive the surgery are subjected to less social stigma, but they also enjoy the freedom and autonomy that comes with increased mobility and financial security.
Which Costs More: Obesity or Weight Loss Surgery?
Obesity causes physical, financial, environmental, and psychological damage. Fortunately, weight loss surgery is a cost-effective solution that reverses or prevents much of this damage. A relatively small investment in weight loss surgery now can lead to a lifetime of savings and increased earnings, in addition to better health and quality of life. Consider your options today to make the physical, financial, and mental changes you want in your life.