BCBS of Arizona Weight Loss Surgery – How to Avoid a Denial

Your Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona weight loss surgery insurance coverage depends on several factors, all of which are reviewed below.

First, try our insurance tool to quickly check your insurance coverage:

Read and click below for additional weight loss surgery insurance details.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Click on any of the topics below to jump directly to that section

  1. Coverage Requirements
  2. Coverage Plans
  3. Covered Procedures
  4. Appealing a Denial
  5. Find a Weight Loss Surgeon
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01.

Coverage Requirements

SECTION SUMMARY:

  • 35+ Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • Documentation of failed diet attempts
  • Psychological evaluation

READ THIS FIRST

Even if your insurance company covers bariatric surgery in some plans, that does not mean that your specific plan covers it. The obesity surgery approval requirements in this section assume that weight loss surgery is covered by your specific policy.

To confirm whether your specific policiy covers bariatric surgery, click here to contact a surgeon and ask for a free insurance check.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this page may not include all components of your insurance company’s medical policy and/or may not be up to date. Contact your insurance company to confirm all benefits.

In order to be approved by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona for bariatric surgery in the United States, you must meet the following criteria:

  1. Be age 18 years or older
  2. Diagnosis of Morbid obesity, defined as
  3. Or

    • BMI 35 – 39.9 AND one of the following
      • Cardiovascular disease
      • Coronary artery disease
      • Degenerative joint disease of weight bearing joints
      • Diabetes mellitus
      • Documented sleep apnea
      • Pseudotumor cerebri
      • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) not responsive to other treatment

    Use this BMI Calculator to check your body mass index…

  4. Diagnosis of morbid obesity for the past consecutive 5 years.
  5. Individual must provide written documentation of participation in a weight loss program for 8 weeks or longer within 12 months preceding weight loss surgery. Weight loss programs include recognized commercial weight loss programs, nutritional counseling or hospital based weight loss programs.
  6. Pre-operative clinical assessment and documentation must reflect a significant motivation and understanding of the risks associated with the intended surgery, as well as an understanding of the life-long restricted eating habits that will follow.
  7. Clinical documentation must reflect a plan for active participation in both a pre-surgical instructional program AND a post-surgical, post-operative or follow-up program. Clinical documentation must reflect participation in pre-operative nutritional counseling and that there is a plan in place for post-operative nutritional counseling as well.
  8. Individual has no treatable condition that may be responsible for the morbid obesity, e.g., endocrine, metabolic, etc.
  9. Individual has no significant liver, kidney or gastrointestinal disease.
  10. Individual has no drug or alcohol abuse – must be abstinent for 12 months or more if there is a history of drug or alcohol abuse.
  11. Individual has no contraindications to surgery.
  12. Individual has had an evaluation by a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist documenting the absence of significant psychopathology that may limit an individual’s understanding of the procedure or ability to comply with medical/surgical recommendations (e.g., active substance abuse, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, uncontrolled depression). Clinical documentation must substantiate approval by the attending clinician for the intended procedure if the individual has current symptoms of or is on maintenance medication for psychological or psychiatric disease.

Revision Requirements

Revisions to an eligible bariatric surgical procedure are considered medically necessary with documentation of ANY of the following conditions:

  • Anastomosis, leak at site
  • Anastomosis, marginal ulceration at site
  • Band erosion
  • External band slippage
  • Dehiscence/disruption of staple line
  • Disruption of operative wound
  • “Dumping” syndrome, severe
  • Esophageal dilatation, symptomatic
  • Esophagitis confirmed on endoscopy or biopsy
  • Failed weight loss with weight regain due to stomal (pouch) dilation
  • Failed weight loss with esophageal dilatation
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), severe
  • Acute gastric or esophageal hemorrhage or hematoma complicating a procedure
  • Chronic gastric or esophageal hemorrhage
  • Intractable vomiting
  • Post-gastric surgery syndromes, e.g., post-gastrectomy syndrome, post-vagotomy syndrome
  • Pouch enlargement documented by endoscopy that is not the result of diet non-compliance
  • Stomal stenosis or dilatation documented by endoscopy
  • Stricture(s) not amenable to balloon dilatation
  • Unspecified and other post-surgical non-absorption, e.g., diarrhea following gastrointestinal surgery
  • Weight loss of 20% or more below the ideal body weight

If Your Policy Does NOT Cover It: Seek Partial Coverage

You may be able to get part of the costs paid for by insurance even if weight loss surgery isn’t covered. It’s all about how your doctor and hospital submit your claims to your insurance company.

For example, there are many non-bariatric surgery reasons for your doctor to recommend:

  • Cardiology exam
  • Lab work
  • Medically supervised diet program
  • Psychological exam
  • Sleep study

These are ordered for many reasons other than bariatric surgery and may be covered as a result. If your doctor submits one of these claims using a weight loss surgery CPT code (Current Procedural Terminology Code), your insurance is unlikely to cover it. But if your doctor uses a general CPT code, it probably will be covered.

While this may sound “sneaky”, it is an ethical practice. After all, these tests will be beneficial regardless of whether you move forward with surgery.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona Contact Information and Full Medical Policy on Bariatric Surgery

02.

Coverage by Plan Type

SECTION SUMMARY:

  • Coverage Through Your Employer
  • Individual & Family Plans
  • Medicare

Before getting into the types of insurance plans, you can cut to the chase by contacting a local bariatric surgeon’s office. Most surgeons will contact your insurance company for free to confirm whether or not you’re covered.

Click here to find a local surgeon and ask them to check your insurance for you for free.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona does cover weight loss surgery, but your specific policy must include it in order for you get it covered.

Following are a list of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona plan types and whether they cover bariatric surgery:

Weight Loss Surgery for Health Plans Through Your Work

If you work for a company that has 50 or more full time employees, it is completely up to your employer to decide whether or not to cover bariatric surgery under your health plan.

To find out whether weight loss surgery is covered by your employer’s plan, you have a few options:

Weight Loss Surgery for Individual/Family Plans

The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) requires all individual and small group plans (less than 50 full time employees) to include weight loss surgery coverage as long as it is considered an “Essential Health Benefit” in your state.

The following states DO currently consider bariatric surgery an Essential Health Benefit (bariatric surgery is covered by all individual, family and small group plans in these states):

Your State Not on the List?

If your state is NOT on the list, then weight loss surgery is probably NOT covered under your plan.

First, contact your local surgeon to be sure. For no charge, their office will contact your insurance company on your behalf to work through the details.

If your surgeon confirms that your policy does not include obesity surgery, you still have several options for making surgery more affordable. See these pages for more information:

    • Arizona
    • California
    • Delaware
    • Hawaii
    • Illinois
    • Iowa
    • Maine
    • Maryland
    • Massachusetts
    • Michigan
    • Nevada
    • New Hampshire
    • New Jersey
    • New Mexico
    • New York
    • North Carolina
    • North Dakota
    • Oklahoma
    • Rhode Island
    • South Dakota
    • Vermont
    • West Virginia
    • Wyoming

Regardless of whether your state is on the list, contact a qualified surgeon to request a free insurance check to verify your coverage.

To review your insurance company’s obesity surgery coverage requirements, click here to jump back up the page.

Weight Loss Surgery for Medicare Plans

All Medicare plans are required to cover the following weight loss surgery procedures:

However, special Medicare-specific criteria apply. Click here to learn more about Medicare bariatric surgery coverage.

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03.

Covered Weight Loss Procedures

SECTION SUMMARY:

  • Gastric Sleeve
  • Gastric Bypass
  • Lap-Band
  • Duodenal Switch

Please see below for the procedures Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona covers, might cover under certain circumstances, and those that are not covered under any circumstances:

Procedures That ARE Covered

Procedures That MIGHT BE Covered

The following procedures MIGHT BE covered by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona:

Procedures That Are NOT Covered

The following procedures are NOT covered by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona:

04.

Appealing a Denial

SECTION SUMMARY:

  • General Appeal Instructions
  • Appeal Details Specific to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizon

If Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona denies your weight loss surgery claim and you think it should be covered, consider filing an appeal.

Our Health Insurance Appeals page will get you started, then head over to the Disputes & Appeals page for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona to learn how to proceed.

05.

Find A Top Weight Loss Surgeon

SECTION SUMMARY:

  • Ask for a free insurance check or cost quote
  • Attend a free seminar or webinar
  • Schedule a phone or in-person consultation (both often free)

Search the weight loss surgeon directory below to ask a surgeon about a free insurance check by country and region:

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