Thinking about weight loss surgery in Mexico?
Make sure you're well informed before you make the trip. And "well informed" might mean NOT going.
There's an obvious appeal to crossing the border for gastric bypass, lap band or gastric sleeve surgery...
You may not have health insurance or your health insurance may not cover bariatric surgery. Traveling to Mexico for weight loss surgery might seem like the only way to afford it.
Although weight loss surgery in Mexico may cost half as much as in the US, you can still expect to pay $8000-12,000 depending on which surgery you have.
You don't have to meet "American" weight criteria.
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), to be a candidate for bariatric surgery you must have:
These are the guidelines most insurance companies follow. So if you can't afford to "self pay," what's a person with a BMI of 37.5 and no other health problems to do? Intentionally gain weight? What's a person with a BMI of 35 and "only" diabetes to do? Wait for another health problem to arise?
You can see why weight loss surgery in Mexico has appeal. And...
There's no waiting period.
The fact that you don't have to endure a waiting period further ups the appeal. There's no need to go through rigorous psychological and dietary evaluation, or attempt a 3 or 6 month diet to prove to your insurance company you're committed to a new, healthy lifestyle.
My opinion? I don't think you should do it!
but Don't Forget to Consider Other Expenses
For instance, consider follow up appointments in Mexico and the associated travel costs. And how much work will you have to miss to travel back and forth to Mexico?
If you're planning to have lap band surgery, you'll need to have regular "fills." You need to find out if the cost of the fills is included with the price of your surgery. If so, are they included for the first year only? First 2 years? For life? If not, how much is it going to cost to get lap band fills? (And how successful is your weight loss going to be if you don't get those fills? Not very!)
Guess what? American doctors don't like to provide post-op care to patients who had Mexican weight loss surgery. It opens the doctors up to liability. And for what? The big money to be made was on your surgery!
Round trip "all inclusive packages" make the notion of weight loss surgery in Mexico almost glamorous. All inclusive package prices might include round trip airfare and a 5 star hotel room with a garden view. You get to go on a mini vacation!
Just as there are good and bad hospitals and doctors in the US, there are in Mexico too. So take time to research the surgeon and hospital or clinic you're considering. Be sure to find out
You should also know if your surgery will be performed in a hospital or clinic. While a medical clinic may be safe and well equipped, a hospital may be better set up to handle any unusual medical complications or emergencies that might occur.
Don't assume everything will go right!
Weight Loss Surgery in Mexico: After Care
The actual weight loss surgery itself (whether gastic bypass, lap-band, or gastric sleeve) is just the beginning of your weight loss journey. Your surgery is simply a "tool." What you choose to do with it in the weeks and months after surgery will determine how truly successful you are.
The real work starts after the surgery. Your committment to a lifelong change in eating habits is made possible by your surgery, but it's not a given.
Without the proper education and ongoing support, you're likely to become a "poor outcome" statistic. If you're not going to be flying back and forth to Mexico for support, where will you get it? Can you get it? You need to know ahead of your surgery.
Special Consideration for Lap-Band Patients
If you're considering Lap-Band surgery in Mexico, you need to know what kind of band you're getting. Many different types are used, but only 2 are approved for use in the US:
This is important if you've somehow managed to arrange band adjustments and "fills" in the US.
That's right: you need to know ahead of time from whom and where you'll get your fills. Will you have to fly back and forth to Mexico or is your surgeon associated with someone in the US you can see?
As I mentioned, many bariatric surgeons will either not treat patients who had surgery by another doctor or they'll charge non-patients ridiculous prices for fills.
You could have as many as 5-10 fills over the first 1-2 years. Cost can range from $100-$300 and up to $1000/fill if you're a patient coming from a doctor in Mexico. That's quite a price!
How much money is weight loss surgery in Mexico saving you now???
Ask Lots of Questions
Ask what will happen after your weight loss surgery. If there is a problem (e.g. infection) after the surgery, who and how will you be taken care of? Do you have to fly back and forth to Mexico? What if you're too sick to travel?
Often you are responsible for any costs associated with complications as a result of the surgery. If so, make sure you are financially prepared.
All that money you saved by having weight loss surgery in Mexico in the first place, could easily get burned up if there is any problem afterward. Remember, you might be lucky to even find a local doctor who will take you on as a patient if he/she didn't perform your original surgery.
And how well do you know the law in Mexico? What will you do if your doctor doesn't live up to the terms of your agreement?
Hmm. Weight loss surgery? Mexico?
Run for the border? Or run away from it?
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