Insurance tips for pursuing weight loss surgery–it’s a process!

INSURANCE TIPS FOR PURSUING WEIGHT LOSS  SURGERY–IT’S A PROCESS!

Even though insurance coverage for weight loss surgery is often the best and least expensive option for you, obtaining insurance authorization for the surgery can be frustrating and time consuming.  Despite the fact that weight loss surgery is endorsed by the National Institutes of Health as the only effective treatment for morbid obesity, some insurance policies do not cover it at all. This is typically based on the employer who provides the insurance.  It is very important to make sure “you” have the benefit on your particular plan.  Here are some important insurance tips for weight loss surgery!

Once the benefit is determined obtaining insurance authorization could involve some or all of the following steps:

  • Confirming with your insurance that surgical weight loss is a covered benefit on your policy.
  • Determining which surgical weight loss procedures your policy will cover.
  • Determining what criteria will be needed for insurance approval (BMI, weight, if you need 3-18 months previous weight loss attempts, etc).
  • Obtaining documentation with 2-5 years of medical records from your primary care physician.
  • Clearance from a mental health professional (psych eval).

Our office will then prepare a comprehensive letter of medical necessity outlining your situation and send it along with all the necessary information requesting approval for your weight loss surgery.

You will need to take an active role in gathering this information and contacting your insurance!

We recommend that you document every step of this process. It is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain insurance coverage for weight loss surgery with some insurance companies. Most companies require you to have participated in a physician supervised weight loss program before approval.

  1. BE INFORMED

Do your research, which many of you may have already done. There are several Internet sites where you can go and gather useful tips on how to be prepared. You can also review www.obesityhelp.com and www.loseweightcincy.com. Some patients have went out and got the book “Weight loss surgery for dummies” and found it helpful. Attending support groups are also very important. This is where you can ask important insurance questions of other patients who have had similar experiences.

  1. PERSONAL INFORMATION

When you call your insurance company, you should know your height, weight, BMI (there is a BMI calculator at www.loseweightcincy.com , and medical problems (often referred to as co-morbidities) related to your obesity and your previous diet history.  Some primary care physicians will write a letter recommending surgical weight loss to the insurance company.  Rather than having your doctor send that to your insurance company, it’s best to give that to us, so that we can include it with our letter.  We will need medical records from your primary care physician and any prior weight loss attempts.

  1. MAKING THE CALL TO THE INSURANCE COMPANY

It is important to make contact with your insurance company to find out if surgical weight loss is a covered benefit, what procedures they will approve, and if you can select the surgeon you want. You should call the customer service line on the back of your card and/or call your benefits coordinator at your human resources office.

Please use the list below to help you ask all of the questions and to document the answers received from your insurance company.

  • Is surgery for morbid obesity a covered benefit?  
  • Write down the exact telephone number and extension called, and the exact name of the contact person you spoke with.
  • Call the customer service number on the back of your insurance card.
  • State “ I am inquiring about my benefits for surgical weight loss for morbid obesity (Diagnosis code or otherwise know as ICD 10 code E66.01).”
  • Are these CPT codes covered?

           43770 Gastric band

           43644 Gastric bypass

           43775 Gastric sleeve 

  • Do I need 
    • Medical clearance from the Primary Care Physician?
    • Documentation of length of obesity?
    • Documentation of weight loss attempts?
  •  Is Dr. Curry (NPI #1841281987 in network?
    • If not, do I have out of network benefits?

Remember to be sure and get the name and the extension of the person that you talked to!

  1. START MAKING APPOINTMENTS
  • Initial Office Consultation

You will receive an email with a link to log in to your patient portal. Fill out the MEDICAL HISTORY & DIET HISTORY ON OUR PATIENT PORTAL. This MUST be completed prior to your initial consultation with the doctor.  You will receive further instructions on this after you schedule a consultation.

  • Psychological Evaluation

As we are a Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence, one of the mandates upon us is that all of our patients must undergo a preoperative psych evaluation.  Most of our patients see Dr. Charles Buhrman in our office, but it is not required to use him for this evaluation.  (Please note that Dr. Buhrman does not work for our practice, he has his own practice and comes to our office for patient convenience.  Separate fees and charges will apply from his clinical evaluation.)

  • Referral letter from Primary Care Physician

Ask your Primary Care Physician if he/she would be kind enough to detail your weight-related medical problems and to indicate that he feels the surgery is medically necessary.  If your doctor needs more information on the surgical weight loss procedure that you are interested in, let him know that he/she can call us, and we will be happy to send information regarding the surgery.  The more detailed this letter is, the better, and it is especially important for them to mention what diets you have done in the past!

Be sure to ask everyone that you speak with to fax us copies of the reports to our office (513-559-1235). You may also want to retain hard copies for your personal records.

SUBMITTING TO INSURANCE

After your first appointment, our insurance coordinator will contact you regarding the specific criteria for your individual plan. When all of the criteria has been satisfied, a Letter of Medical of Necessity will be written. We will then submit your case to your insurance company along with all of your necessary documentation.  

The next question patients have is “How long before we get the approval from the insurance company?” This is difficult to predict! Insurance providers are all different with their approval process. It could take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of months to get the approval.  Once you are approved, we will contact you to set up your next appointment!

SELF-PAYING FOR SURGERY

If you do not have surgical weight loss benefits, we can help you with obtaining the necessary financing for self-paying for the operation.  In fact, many patients find they spend less money per month after surgery, even including their payment on the operation, due to decreased costs for food, medication, lost wages, etc.  

The advantages of self pay include:  

  • You can have surgery usually within 4-6 weeks, which is much sooner than if insurance is involved
  • The money you pay out of pocket is potentially tax deductible, which can increase your return by as much as $2000-$4000
  • There are multiple ways to finance your procedure (home equity loan, credit cards, etc).  We have a partnership with Prosper Health Lending, you can find out more by clicking here!

DrCurry (219)

2 thoughts on “Insurance tips for pursuing weight loss surgery–it’s a process!

  1. Personally, I don’t know too much about weight loss surgery so I wanted to look up some information. I really appreciated how this article talked about obtaining insurance authorization. I think that this is a great idea to make sure that everything goes well.

  2. I like how you mentioned that when pursuing weight loss surgery, it’s important that you are informed, and it’s a good idea to attend support group so you can ask questions. I have been thinking about getting weight loss surgery because I haven’t had any luck with losing weight for many years. I will definitely keep all of your great tips and information in mind if I do decide to have the surgery.

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