[ UPDATED ON MARCH 2017 ]
The cost of gastric sleeve surgery in Mexico is an issue that can hardly be explained in a few words because there are many factors that influence it.
This article will discuss the main aspects of it, some price ranges, the factors that influence and some aspects that we recommend to take into account when assessing the options available for your gastric sleeve surgery.
Cost of Gastric Sleeve Surgery in Mexico VS USA
Let's start by mentioning that the prices of a gastric sleeve surgery vary widely from country to country:
For example, while U.S. prices range between $ 15,000 and $ 25,000 USD, in Mexico you can find prices from $ 4,500 to $ 12,000 USD, with an average of $ 8,000 USD.
It is important to note that whoever offers prices lower than $ 6.000 will not be as reliable, since it is likely that in exchange for offering a low price, the quality of the service is sacrificed and thus endangering health and patient’s investment.
The reasons why prices vary between Mexico and the United States mainly cover three aspects:
- Differences in the cost of living in general
- Much lower cost of rent of the facilities
- Lower fees for all personnel involved
In the United States, unfortunately for decades now, lawyers and lawsuits are out of control. Doctors in the United States are forced to pay huge amounts of money annually to cover their medical malpractice insurance to protect against fraudulent claims that are at the order of the day.
This does not mean that in Mexico there is no need for doctors to protect themselves from such situations but so far, the interaction of a doctor of any specialty with his/her patient is based more on the real purpose of medicine which is to help the patient, so the patient does not usually go on a defensive behavior to a doctor’s appointment.
In addition, hospitals and doctors are forced to perform all sorts of evaluations and tests in order to be legally protected, in the United States they are forced to do so due to the issue of lawsuits and this in turn causes the hospital costs to become unnecessarily excessive in almost all cases, especially when it comes to surgical procedures such as obesity surgery which in its majority is not covered by insurance companies as medical expenses in almost any part of world because weight loss surgery is wrongly considered as cosmetic surgery.
To be more specific and to give a clearer idea of the real reasons for the difference in the cost of gastric sleeve surgery in Mexico vs. the cost of gastric sleeve in the United States we go into more detail:
- The Medical malpractice insurance in the United States costs about $ 100,000 a year, so obviously physicians must have high annual income to cover this expense, to protect their family and heritage. Unlike that in México, the approximate annual cost of such insurance for medicolegal cases is $ 1500 USD yearly.
- Wages in Mexico for general medical personnel (doctors, nurses, hospital staff) are approximately 20% of what they are in the United States, with the same responsibilities, training and education. Wages in this case do not go along at all with less dedication, skills or training for the profession in question, being at the height of the US.
- In Mexico, maintenance costs, rental of physical space, hospital facilities etc., represent only a fraction of what they cost in the United States, so these savings are reflected in our ultimate goal: the patient.
- Besides, as is it well known that the exchange rate of the dollar over mexican peso is increasingly on the rise so it is now even more accessible to a foreign patient undergoing any medical procedure in Mexico.
For all the previous reasons it is that Mexico is considered one of the most popular countries today in terms of medical tourism. Mexican patients are aware that medicine in our country is of good quality at least privately and as with everything, with its few exceptions.
Is gastric sleeve surgery covered by my health insurance?
Unfortunately in our country as in almost every part of the world bariatric surgery ,for reasons I personally don’t understand, is not covered as a curative or preventive procedure, since it is wrongly considered by medical insurance companies and by many people, as a cosmetic procedure.
A gastric sleeve surgery is seen by many as a procedure seeked because of vanity and lack of commitment, when it is really something very different in most cases, in fact we have a blog article related to the ignorance of society on obesity surgery and its implications and the way that it is seen by those who undergo a procedure of this type.
Really there is not much more explanation than this: being wrongly considered a cosmetic procedure, “having nothing to do with health”, insurance companies do not take these procedures into account in their policies.
In our opinion, the opinión of other bariatric surgeons and according to numerous international statistics and worldwide recognition associations such as the American Diabetes Association, we catalogue bariatric surgery as the only treatment today that could cure a patient with diabetes, or in worst case scenario patients achieve a huge improvement in the control of this disease. As with diabetes, the same situation of marked improvement occurs in the case of hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, male and female hormonal imbalance, etc.
It also achieves the risk reduction of cancer on multiple organs and systems, it cures sleep apnea, etc., all this is preventable, more controllable or even curable with weight loss surgery. That is why we consider absurd that insurance companies cannot see the economic benefit it would bring to them on the future with their insured patients if they undergo this kind of treatments.
Factors affecting the cost of procedure
The main factors that influence the final price of a gastric sleeve procedure and that we recommend you to check with your surgeon at the time of his proposal are:
1. Materials and surgical equipment for bariatric surgery
The material used specifically in bariatric procedures such as the gastric sleeve and gastric bypass requires the best possible quality. The success or failure of the procedure (with success and failure we mean not weight loss but to the presence or absence of complications during and after surgery) depends, besides another relevant things, on the quality of this material.
The surgeon may be very skillful and have excellent laparoscopic and bariatric surgery training, but if the material used is of poor quality he cannot reduce to a minimum the possibility of a serious complication such as gastric leak. On the other hand a not so skilled surgeon that is using the right material for this important step (stomach and/or intestine stapling and cutting ) will have less chance of complications.
Logically, the best combination would be having a very skilled surgeon with extensive experience in the procedure, using the material of the best possible quality. By common sense, do you think that the latter combination can offer low or very low prices?
2. Training of personnel involved in the gastric sleeve surgery
This goes hand in hand with what was previously explained, as well as the head of the team (the surgeon), take into consideration the quality of staff around him:
- The assistant surgeon
- The anesthesiologist, which is ideal for him to be an expert in bariatric anesthesia
- The Group of doctors who may be involved with the patient outside the operating room
- Before surgery, specialists as cardiologits, pulmonologist, endocrinologist, internist, etc.
Did your surgeon mentioned you about a preoperative evaluation? We can assure you that the cheapest cannot afford this kind of pre-operative care so vital to patient care and safety.
3. Infrastructure and quality of facilities for gastric sleeve procedure
The issue of facilities can be very subjective and not necessarily a very large hospital is synonymous with quality care. But usually there is indeed a relationship between size, prestige of the hospital and the quality of care provided.
The most relevant advice we can give you on this topic is that you make sure that the place where you decide to have your surgery done it is actually a hospital and not an ambulatory surgical center or a small clinic with 3 beds. In case of any unforeseen event or complication, such a place does not have the necessary infrastructure to adequately assist you as a patient.
On the another hand, a hospital with intensive care unit, imaging departments, laboratory, etc., as well as the availability of different specialties, is the best thing for you as a patient who will definitely be looking for the best care and safety.
4. Preoperative evaluation for the gastric sleeve operation
As we previously mentioned it is important that a patient who plans to undergo a bariatric procedure is widely evaluated and in the measure your case requires. Since it is not the same to operate on a patient who’s 25 years old without any diseases besides obesity than a patient who is 60 years old with diabetes, hypertension, previous heart surgeries, etc.
That is why even though we offer a package and fixed prices, is not an assembly line but a medical and surgical procedure that requires individualization of each case; so this is why there is a minimum recommended preoperative evaluation for patients. The key is to offer the patient what he/she needs for its maximum safety and not the lowest price in order to win him over other bariatric groups.
5. Evaluation and postoperative follow-up of the gastric sleeve
As mentioned in another article related to this topic, one of the biggest advantages of the gastric sleeve surgery is the feasibility of giving remote monitoring for those who have no other option tha having surgery abroad and make synergy between the bariatric surgeon and the family doctor. Since usually the most important and critical moment is during the patient's stay, the period of greatest risk is during the first 72 hours after surgery, time during which the patient is under our supervision.
However any type of contact from our patients with Obesity Free, after surgery does not generate any added fee, in fact we don’t wait to be contacted by the patient, we contact them, we seek to be aware of their evolution during the first months after surgery and if the patient wishes the contact will last as long as needed. Whether surgery was a week ago or 5 years ago. We are available for our patients at no extra cost.
6. Findings during gastric sleeve surgery
One of the most frequent cases regarding findings during surgery, is the presence of a hiatal hernia. The chances that the bariatric patient suffers from a hiatal hernia are higher than the literature reports, at least in our experience.
And thanks to the fact that the hiatal hernia is an anatomical defect close to where we work, it does not cost us more than a few extra minutes to repair the hernia defect and continue with the gastric sleeve procedure. In other words for our gastric sleeve patients with hiatal hernia, we perform both procedures at no extra charge.
7. Patient Body Mass Index (BMI) before obesity surgery
This is definitely another frequent question with regards of cost, and the only explanation of a higher cost in cases of very high body mass index (greater than 52) is that such patients usually require longer surgical time so this in turn, implies increased need for drugs during and after surgery. This is the only reason why some bariatric groups sometimes opt to apply an extra fee, which in our case is minimal.
8. Facilities and care during your recovery from gastric sleeve surgery
The facilities for the recovery of a patient (not only bariatric but for any postoperative patient) should have everything necessary to provide proper recovery. By this we mean preferably a private room, with all amenities for a single patient and not a common area for several patients at once.
We also consider very relevant to have proper support from qualified nurses. At Obesity Free we have 24 hour nurse supervision and in case of any doubt the patient can seamlessly maintain direct contact with the surgeon, besides the 3 visits per day from Dr. Rosales.
The physical space outside the room may seem irrelevant but being in place as a patient is very useful to start walking within a few hours of the procedure in order to aid recovery and reduce the risk of postoperative complications indirectly related to surgery. An advantage in the case of Obesity Free is that our procedures usually do not last more than 60 minutes, which reduces the possibility of respiratory and/or circulatory complications that may occur after procedures of 3 or more hours.
Post op care during recovery is actually not too different than the usual needed for any surgical patient, provided by nurses, however Obesity Free our patients are visited at least three times a day by Dr. Rosales.
Most relevant things to consider for postop care is:
- A frequent monitoring of vital signs during the first hours
- Monitoring of the incisions
- Keep the patient as comfortable as possible with the administration of medications to control common symptoms such as moderate pain and náusea.
After about 24 hours, tolerance of oral intake is evaluated oral and continued under observation for at least 48 hours in the case of our foreign patients and then they are transported to a hotel before departing to their city of origin. In the case of local patients, due to the proximity we give them the option, if his/her condition lets them, to be able to go home the day after the procedure.
As mentioned in other sections of our website, the cost of a procedure of this type are lower in Mexico but cannot be excessively low since this might represent a decrease in the quality of care and the facilities where they will perform your surgery. If surgery is done with a reliable surgeon and on a hospital, gastric sleeve surgery in Mexico is totally secure
9. Lodging and Transportation of bariatric package
As we mentioned before lodging on the day prior to surgery and after the procedure, along with ground transportation, are covered with the package that Obesity Free offers. The patient who chooses to have the procedure done with us should not worry about anything from the moment he/she arrives to the city of the chosen location for surgery, there are no added or hidden charges at any time during their stay.
The details of everything included in our service can be read in packages for gastric sleeve surgery in Mexico In order to give a short and clear idea of what the package includes, as we mentioned, the patient should not worry about anything upon its arrival until its departure, even medications at discharge are also included for our foreign patients.
10. Details for your gastric sleeve journey
Travel details vary according to the particular case of the foreign patient. There are many logistical details that must be taken into consideration so we always suggest to our patients completing the formalities with enough time ahead so that everything goes as we wish in terms of timing mainly.
This is a broad perspective of the most important features that must be analyzed when considering the price of the gastric sleeve procedure in Mexico.
[ UPDATED ON MARCH 2017 ]
Written by: Gabriel Rosales
Dr. Gabriel Rosales is a highly skilled, board certified surgeon in constant pursuit of learning the latest innovations in the weight loss surgery field to give his patients the best care possible.