Free weight loss surgery does exist, but only through weight loss surgery grants or charity care.
If you are not able to get either, there are several options available to make surgery more affordable.
Review the information below and click each section for more details.
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Weight loss surgery grants are available through the WLSFA
Surgery grants help those who cannot afford surgery by funding all or part of the treatment costs. Currently, the only grant available specifically for weight loss surgery comes from the Weight Loss Surgery Foundation of America (WLSFA).
The WLSFA raises funds to grant people who need help obtaining weight loss surgery or post weight loss reconstructive plastic surgery. Grant recipients must work towards helping others by donating time and resources back to the WLSFA.
You must meet three requirements in order to be considered for a grant from the WLSFA:
- You must have been approved for weight loss or reconstructive surgery
- You must either have no insurance, been denied coverage for surgery by your insurance carrier or have insurance that won’t cover all of the costs
- You must be willing to be part of the grant process and be willing to help raise 10% of the funds you are requesting
To learn more and to apply for the grant, see the WLSFA’s web site.
Charity care may pay for weight loss surgery for qualifying patients
If you are within a certain range of the federal poverty level and don’t have insurance, you may be able to qualify for weight loss surgery charity care from a hospital in your area. For instance, some hospitals provide free health care to people with household incomes up to three times the federal poverty level.
In addition to meeting income requirements, hospital charity care requires the surgery to be medically necessary (not cosmetic).
To determine whether you are eligible, you will typically need to complete a financial application which may include proof of income and other personal information. In addition, the hospital will likely require the referring doctor to be part of their staff.
If you choose to explore this route, keep in mind that your referring doctor may not be up-to-date on the benefits of bariatric surgery and could take some convincing. If your doctors are reluctant to refer you, share the following studies with them…
- Pennington Biomedical Research Center – Weight Loss Surgery Extends Lifespan
- Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine – A Comprehensive Exam of Co-morbidities in an Employed Population
- Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine – Risks and Benefits of Bariatric Surgery: Current Evidence
- Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality – Obesity in Adults – Review this entire page and include studies that will support your case. There are many studies relating to specific populations – if it applies to you, include it. There are also several impactful general studies.
If your financial application for charity care is denied, don’t give up right away. Many hospitals will still work with you, based on the information you submit, to come up with a reduced payment.
To find out which hospitals in your area offer charity care, go to their web sites and search for “charity care.” If you can’t find their policies listed online, call them directly to get the details.
Below are 7 ways to make your weight loss surgery more affordable
If you are unable to receive free weight loss surgery through charity care and don’t have insurance, you have several options to reduce the cost and make surgery affordable…
- Most affordable local option: Payment plan through your surgeon
- Most surgeons offer free seminars that teach you about your surgery and financing options.
- Click here to find and schedule an in-person seminar or one-on-one consultation with a qualified weight loss surgeon in your area.
- Friends and family
- Secured loans
- Retirement plan loans
- Permanent life insurance loans
- Brokers, direct lenders and credit cards (unsecured loans)
- Medical travel (also called medical tourism)
- Deduct the cost of surgery from your taxes
Go to our Financing Bariatric Surgery page for an in-depth review of each of these options.