Insurance Coverage Criteria for Bariatric Surgery: A Survey of Policies

Selim G. Gebran, Brooks Knighton, Ledibabari M. Ngaage, John A. Rose, Michael P Grant, Fan Liang, Arthur J. Nam, Stephen M. Kavic, Mark D. Kligman, Yvonne M. Rasko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Bariatric surgery remains underutilized at a national scale, and insurance company reimbursement is an important determinant of access to these procedures. We examined the current state of coverage criteria for bariatric surgery set by private insurance companies. Methods: We surveyed medical policies of the 64 highest market share health insurance providers in the USA. ASMBS guidelines and the CMS criteria for pre-bariatric evaluation were used to collect private insurer coverage criteria, which included procedures covered, age, BMI, co-morbidities, medical weight management program (MWM), psychosocial evaluation, and a center of excellence designation. We derive a comprehensive checklist for pre-bariatric patient evaluation. Results: Sixty-one companies (95%) had defined pre-authorization policies. All policies covered the RYGB, and 57 (93%) covered the LAGB or the SG. Procedures had coverage limited to center of excellence in 43% of policies (n = 26). A total of 92% required a BMI of 40 or above or of 35 or above with a co-morbidity; however, 43% (n = 23) of policies covering adolescents (n = 36) had a higher BMI requirement of 40 or above with a co-morbidity. Additional evaluation was required in the majority of policies (MWM 87%, psychosocial evaluation 75%). Revision procedures were covered in 79% (n = 48) of policies. Reimbursement of a second bariatric procedure for failure of weight loss was less frequently found (n = 41, 67%). Conclusions: A majority of private insurers still require a supervised medical weight management program prior to approval, and most will not cover adolescent bariatric surgery unless certain criteria, which are not supported by current evidence, are met.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)707-713
Number of pages7
JournalObesity Surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Bariatric
  • Insurance
  • Reimbursement
  • Weight loss surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


Dive into the research topics of 'Insurance Coverage Criteria for Bariatric Surgery: A Survey of Policies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this