October 16, 2018 by Dr. Kyle Varner in Bariatric Surgery , Medical Tourism , Obesity

I was in medical school when I discovered bariatric surgery. I was morbidly obese and for years had tried one diet after another without success. Finally, I thought I had found the solution!

The problem was, in the US, bariatric surgery was not an option for me. I wasn’t close enough to death to qualify for the treatment and as a busy medical student, it was impossible for me to meet the excessive pre-operation requirements.

I could see the solution, but it was just out of reach! I was truly miserable and consigned to a bitter, angry life when I came across the option of going abroad to Mexico for treatment. Initially, the idea of getting bariatric surgery in a foreign country was very scary to me, but the more I researched, the more I learned about the excellent options out there.

In the end, not only did engaging in medical tourism make this weight loss surgery a possibility for me, it actually saved me tens of thousands of dollars. For those considering bariatric surgery, I highly recommend going abroad to complete the procedure. Let me break down the main reasons why—

Qualifying for Bariatric Surgery

In the United States, just because you want a bariatric surgery or think you need one, that does not mean that you will be able to have one. With money comes power, so when third-party insurance companies are paying for your treatments, they have the power to decide what you can and can’t have.

In order to get permission to have bariatric surgery, they will assess your Body Mass Index (BMI), which is the measurement of your weight in relation to your height. While a BMI of 30 or above is considered obese, you will need to have a BMI of at least 40 or 35 with 2 comorbidities in order to qualify for a weight loss surgery.

Comorbidities are additional medical conditions that result from your obesity. Some examples of recognized comorbidities include type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, or hypertension.

When I was going up for bariatric surgery, the threshold was two comorbidities to qualify. I was only diagnosed with one, pre-diabetes. Since I couldn’t prove any others to make the cut, I was disqualified from having the procedure. If I would have accepted that and stayed in the US, I would have undoubtedly developed diabetes by now.

Luckily, we do not have to let insurance companies decide our fate. For those that do not qualify in the US, going abroad can make this life-changing procedure an option.

Pre-Operative Bariatric Surgery Programs

The second major obstacle to seeking bariatric surgery in the US is the excessive preoperative programs that patients in the United States are put through. You are required to go through X-rays, ultrasounds, lab tests, and a series of other required tests. On top of that, you need to be evaluated and given clearance by a number of different specialists before you can get the go ahead.

There were so many different appointments to make that I honestly don’t know how anyone with a job could possibly attend all of them.

Of course, it is important to have your health assessed prior to undergoing such an operation, but in the US this has been taken to an excessive level as a barrier to entry. The main reason for this is that when insurance “covers” a procedure, this artificially lowers the cost of undertaking the procedure and thus raises the demand for it. It’s simple economics.

If you can get a bariatric surgery covered by insurance, you’re very likely to go get it, regardless of how important it is to you. It only has to be important enough for you to sign up and go to two appointments. That’s different than if you have to sign up and go to 30 appointments and get on a treadmill and do all this other stuff.

One’s commitment to the procedure is important. But that can be established by the willingness to part with cash, rather than the willingness to jump through hoops.

Like I said at the beginning, as a medical student on 12-hour shifts it was virtually impossible for me to make so many different appointments.

When I discovered that by going across the border I could get all of this done right away, it was a no-brainer.

Bariatric Surgery Without Insurance

As a medical student, I didn’t have much money when I was looking to undergo weight loss surgery. That was a problem because surgeries like this were going for $30,000 in the United States at the time. There are some insurance plans that cover them, but my student’s insurance plan did not.

When I started doing my research on the bariatric surgeries abroad, I found that one of the most popular places for these procedures was in Tijuana, Mexico. And as it turns out, there are some very good and very experienced surgeons there.

Once I’d decided on a place, then I started shopping. I looked up several doctors and their prices ranged from $4,500 to about $9,000 for the surgery, depending on who was doing it and the facility they were having it done in.

Then I came across a company called Ready4AChange, which is a medical tourism facilitator. The company was founded by a lovely lady named Judy who had undergone bariatric surgery in Mexico. It had been such a life-changing procedure for her that she started the business to help more to do the same.

She offered me a package deal, $5,000, and they would pick me up at the airport in San Diego, chauffer me across the border, put me up in a hotel, then include the entire hospitalization and doctor’s fee as well as two nights in a hotel afterward for further recuperation. All the tests I needed, all the medications I needed, everything, $5,000. It was still expensive for me as a medical student, but compared to the $30,000 I was expected to shell out in the US, it was doable.


Without a doubt, bariatric surgery completely transformed my life. It gave me a social life, helped me advance in my career, and even made me a nicer person. However, if I’d left my fate to the US medical and insurance system, I never would have been able to have it. I most likely would have developed diabetes, and possibly would have committed suicide by now. I was that miserable.

Luckily, I chose to take my fate into my own hands and sought a solution outside of the US. As a result, not only did I get the treatment that I needed, but with high-quality, great service, and at a fraction of the price.

While many think that medical tourism is all about cutting costs, it’s really just an added bonus. Sure, it makes a huge difference. But more than that is the freedom of choice and improved service that comes with you being the customer. Not your insurance company.

This information is intended to help readers be more informed about their health options when speaking with a professional, but it should not be used alone to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease or condition. Be sure to speak to a qualified doctor before taking any action to make sure that your choices reflect your actual health situation.

Comments (1)

  1. Evi Wiley says:

    So glad bariatric surgery worked for you. Had a gastric sleeve. Did well till 8 weeks post OP and had undiagnosed Vitamin D. Luckily my PCP took me seriously and checked my Vit D.
    Later after I had lost about 50 pounds then anxiety that I had been smothering with FOOD came roaring in. Bariatric surgeon was no help. When he lectured me in his cold clinical tone, I told him all I heard was my.mother telling me to kill myself when I was a preschooler. He just kept up his lecture. I never went back. Became suicidal 2 months later and ended up in court ordered in patient treatment. 3 years later I’m still on this journey with many downs and overeating. I’m 66, insulin dependent diabetic, heart attack this year, chronic depression, losing my feet/lower legs. Have not actually lost my.limbs but I see the early signs. Gained all the weight back. Its 10pm my time. This is my grey time. Things look really bleak. Why not eat all I want, and sleep all day and night????? Luckily with the dawn it’s new day and I again take care of myself till about 5pm. Then im.tired and dont care!!!!.
    And I know all the consequences to out of control diabetics. I treated them. Frankly this just sucks.
    How young are you??

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