TennCare Weight Loss Surgery – How to Avoid a Denial

Your TennCare weight loss surgery insurance coverage depends on several factors, all of which are reviewed below.

To request a free insurance check, click here to contact a local surgeon. Alternatively, use the tool below to find out if you have coverage.

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


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
Bariatric Surgery Source

Coverage Requirements


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


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 TennCare for bariatric surgery in the United States, you must meet the following criteria:

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

    • BMI 35 – 39.9 AND one of the following
      • Coronary artery disease
      • Diabetes Mellitus
      • Sleep Apnea
      • Cardiac risk factors including 3 or more of:
        • Hypertension
        • Low amount of high density lipoprotein
        • High amount of low density lipoprotein
        • Impaired glucose tolerance
        • Family history of cardiovascular disease

    Use this BMI Calculator to check your body mass index…

  4. Morbid obesity has been ongoing for at least 5 years
  5. Signoff from physician other than the operating surgeon (like your Primary Care Physician)
  6. Documented participation in a dieting program, within the last 2 years, for a minimum of 6 months
  7. Physiological – behavioral evaluation to confirm patient’s ability to comply with pre- and post-surgical diet

Revision Requirements

A revision weight loss surgery is avaliable from TennCare with a physician documented medical or surgical complication

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.

TennCare Contact Information and Full Medical Policy on Bariatric Surgery


Coverage by Plan Type


  • 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.

TennCare does cover weight loss surgery, but your specific policy must include it in order for you get it covered.

Following are a list of TennCare 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.

Bariatric Surgery Source

Covered Weight Loss Procedures


  • Gastric Sleeve
  • Gastric Bypass
  • Lap-Band
  • Duodenal Switch
  • Mini Gastric Bypass Surgery
  • Vertical Banded Gastroplasty
  • Biliopancreatic bypass procedure (BPD)
  • Long-Limb Gastric Bypass
  • Single anastomosis duodenoileal bypass with sleeve gastrectomy

Please see below for the procedures TennCare 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 TennCare:

Procedures That Are NOT Covered

The following procedures are NOT covered by TennCare:

  • Gastric Balloon
  • AspireAssist
  • Implantable sleeve (Endo Bypass System)
  • Laparoscopic greater curve plication (LGCP) (i.e., total vertical gastric plication, gastric imbrication, gastric pleat)
  • Natural orifice transluminal endoscopic surgery for the treatment of all conditions/diseases, including, but not limited to, the following: appendectomy, gastroplasty (e.g., Restorative Obesity Surgery Endoluminal [ROSE], StomaphyX®), fundoplication (e.g., EsophyX™), cholecystectomy, cystogastrostomy, nephrectomy and peroral endoscopic myotomy (POEM) for treatment of esophageal achalasia
  • Bariatric surgery for all other indications including but not limited to gastroesophageal reflux alone, glycemic control alone, lipid lowering alone or cardiovascular risk reduction alone independent of BMI criteria is considered investigational
  • Any device utilized for this procedure must have FDA approval specific to the indication, otherwise it will be considered investigational

Appealing a Denial


  • General Appeal Instructions
  • Appeal Details Specific to TennCare

If TennCare 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 TennCare to learn how to proceed.


Find A Top Weight Loss Surgeon


  • 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:

Bariatric Surgery Source
* Disclaimers: Content: The information contained in this website is provided for general information purposes and your specific results may vary depending on a variety of circumstances. It is not intended as nor should be relied upon as medical advice. Rather, it is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her existing physician(s). Before you use any of the information provided in the site, you should seek the advice of a qualified medical, dietary, fitness or other appropriate professional. Advertising: Bariatric Surgery Source, LLC has entered into referral and advertising arrangements with certain medical practices, original equipment manufacturers, and financial companies under which we receive compensation (in the form of flat fees per qualifying action) when you click on links to our partners and/or submit information. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply. Read More

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