FAQ

How do I get started?

A) For weight loss surgery:

1) Please click here to contact us or give us a call at: (805) 379-9796

-or-

2) Use our Online Bariatric Surgery Application.

 

***We highly recommend that you attend one of our live in person seminars. The pros and cons of the surgeries, eligibility criteria, and our program are discussed in detail. Ample time is provided at the end for any questions that you might have. The seminar schedule is listed under Calendar of Events.***

B) For general (non-bariatric) surgery:

Please download, complete, and fax the Non-bariatric Surgery Application to (805) 379-6700. You can also call us to have one mailed or emailed to you.

What are the eligibility criteria for weight loss surgery?

    • You have to be 18 years or older at the time of surgery. There is no absolute upper cut-off level. However “wiser” patients will be considered on a case-by-case basis depending on several factors including physiologic fitness.

 

    • You must be mobile, independent, medically and psychologically stable, and have an adequate social support system.

 

  • You must have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of greater than 40, or a BMI of >35 accompanied by at least one comorbidity. Patients with BMIs lower than 35 may still qualify under certain circumstances. To calculate your BMI, use the calculator to the right:

 

How do I know which weight loss surgery is right for me?

There is currently no consensus amongst bariatric surgeons in regards to the best weight loss operation. There is agreement, however, that each has certain advantages and disadvantages and none are risk free. No two patients, furthermore, respond in a similar fashion to the same surgery. The decision to proceed with any form of bariatric surgery has to be made after careful consideration of all the personal and medical factors involved. This decision, furthermore, has to be reached in consultation with your surgeon, primary care physician, other consultants, and your support system. Based on current bariatric surgery literature, a predictive calculator has been devised to help patients decide. It should only be used as an adjunct to your own research and discussions with others as indicated above. Your results may vary from the predictive models shown.

Does University Bariatrics offer surgeries other than weight loss operations?

Advanced laparoscopic and conventional general surgery are core components of bariatric surgery. Our program does offer a wide range of general surgery procedures on both routine and emergency basis. We welcome all referrals and consults. Should your situation fall out of the scope of our practice, we can act as your ‘surgical base’ and guide you towards another appropriate specialist.

Does insurance cover surgery and which plans does University Bariatrics accept?

We currently accept Medicare and all PPO insurances. We are in network for almost all major plans in our area. An insurance verification for bariatric surgery is typically done before or right after your first visit. Health insurance companies, however, often provide conflicting information to different inquirers at various times. As a result, dealing with them can be the most frustrating step for both patients and physicians and in some cases, final coverage for your surgery is unknown until your complete dossier is sent to them for the final authorization. Generally, unless your particular plan has a clear-cut bariatric surgery non-coverage clause, all plans cover the surgeries.

We are not a Workman’s Comp or MediCal provider, nor are we contracted with Kaiser Permanente or other HMO & capitated medical groups at this time. If you are a KPMG or other HMO patient, you need to obtain an authorization for service and guarantee of payment from your medical group or see us on a fee for service basis.

If you do not have health insurance or decide to pursue surgery or obtain a second opinion outside of any of the above plans, we do offer competitive cash rates for office visits and surgeries. This information will be provided to you in writing and includes full disclosure of all costs and inclusions & exclusions. University Bariatrics is a fully WYSIWYG practice.

How much does bariatric surgery cost?

Patients should view metabolic surgery as a long-term investment in their health. For many, it will generate financial returns as well, through reduced downstream expenses for medications, doctors’ visits, hospitalizations, sick days, and other limitations to activities of daily living.

University Bariatrics and its two affiliated hospitals are in network for Medicare and practically all major insurance providers. Health plans use the terms “in-network,” “preferred,” or “participating” for providers and healthcare facilities that they have lower contractual reimbursement agreements with. If you use an in-network provider or facility, your plan will pay some of the costs at a predetermined rate. Your out of pocket costs are therefore minimized compared to going through out of network providers. Your health-plan is billed for the services provided. The remaining balance will be your responsibility and entails your copays and deductibles.

Until we bill your plan, we do not know your out of pocket costs, as each patient’s plan/subplan/policy is different than another’s, even if via the same carrier. The main cost is that of the hospital stay and you can contact our affiliated hospitals and inquire about their charges and your percentages.

We also offer traditional fee-for-service self-pay based on published guidelines that we will share with you in writing.

You can get an idea of the overall cost of surgery and hospital stay by going to this website: www.healthcarebluebook.com.

Are there program fees or other hidden costs?

University Bariatrics does not have a program fee or anything else of the sorts. These fees are often charged to patients for non-reimbursable but necessary services, such as a dietitian, educational events, and informational material. They range from hundreds to several thousand dollars. Whereas many programs disclose these costs upfront, others do not. Patients may be informed about these surprise fees a few days before surgery, when most are unlikely to turn back after already having gone through much of the process. At University Bariatrics, we believe in transparency, upfront discussion of all aspects of bariatric surgery, full disclosures, and steering clear of the aforementioned tactics. Our practice is completely WYSIWYG.

Hospital or Surgicenter, in or out of network, multi-location practices: what should I know upfront?

Our bariatric and major non-bariatric surgeries are performed at level-1 hospitals and not at outpatient centers, as the latter do not have the capability of addressing emergencies and in our opinion therefore, do not provide the level of safety required for these types of cases. The possibility of immediately transferring a patient to an ER, is in no way equivalent to having surgery at a larger institution with multiple redundant services and backup personnel to deal with any sort of emergency within seconds or minutes.

Health plans use the terms “in-network,” “preferred,” or “participating” for providers and healthcare facilities that they have lower contractual reimbursement agreements with. If you use an in-network provider or facility, your plan will pay some of the costs at a predetermined rate. Your out of pocket costs are therefore minimized compared to going through out of network providers. Be aware, though, that to make up for the difference, some in-network doctors or facilities may resort to using out-of-network providers. These include assistant surgeons, anesthesiologists, consultants, or other allied health members. Their expenses, however, will not necessarily be fully covered by your health plan. Known as balance billing, you might be held responsible for these costs. If not disclosed upfront, you should ask about this possibility and check with your insurance provider as well. At University Bariatrics, we believe in transparency and steering clear of the aforementioned tactics. Our practice is completely WYSIWYG.

Many bariatric surgery programs tend to skew patients towards having all of their preoperative testing, procedures, and the actual surgeries at outpatient centers where they are full owners or shareholders. If not disclosed upfront, you should ask about this possibility and check with your insurance provider as well. We believe this represents a conflict of interest and therefore, do not adhere to these types of practices.

Patients should also be cognizant of the potential risks involved with individuals or groups who work out of multiple locations across a wide geographic area, often for relatively short durations. This dilution of care should be of concern to you not only for routine follow-ups, but also for any postoperative emergencies that may arise and are often shunned by surgeons providing ER coverage due to liability issues. These situations will subject you to major delays in care and potentially deleterious outcomes. Our practice is in a single location and rooted in its surrounding community on a full time basis. We are therefore available to our patients on a 24/7 basis.

How is University Bariatrics different from other surgery practices?

Simply put, we do not adhere to a mill mentality. We believe in simplicity, mutual cooperation, commitment, and open communication. The care is one on one. Your scheduled appointment is indeed that: yours. It’s not with a physician extender, nor is it shared with others or minimized by tens of patients crammed into one day. Our responsibility is to you alone and not to you and an HMO group and a health-plan. Our staffing is streamlined to reduce multiple intervening layers. Our fees are discussed upfront and reflect your investment in the time we spend with you at every step. Our practice is transparent and we expect likewise from our patients as well. To that effect, we enter into a contract with you after the first consultation which clearly states our mutual objectives and expectations.

I am a former UCLA patient of Dr. Mehran. Can I continue following up with him?

Unfortunately, due to contractual obligations and other restrictions, as well as to maintain a programmatic continuity of care, postoperative UCLA patients need to continue following up with the UCLA Bariatric Program. They can be reached at (310) 825-7163.

I have had bariatric or non-bariatric surgery elsewhere. I am having problems or just need routine postoperative care. Can University Bariatrics help me?

We require such patients, whether or not they are having problems or complications, to be referred to us by their primary care physician or another medical specialist. The process cannot begin without this referral.

For bariatric surgery, what are my own primary care doctor, nutritionist, psychologist, or other specialists’ roles?

Having an actively involved primary care physician, or PCP, is an integral part of working with University Bariatrics. Should you not have one, we can help direct you to someone who is familiar with the nuances of metabolic surgery and can provide for your proper long-term management.

We do welcome input by your own mental health providers. However, unless a psychologist who specializes in eating disorders is directly referring you, you will be required to see one of the independent practitioners on our approved list. This decision is not based on any financial arrangements and we will gladly discuss the reasons with you in person.

Direct referrals by nutritionists or other obesity management specialists are welcomed, along with those by other specialists. Our goal would be to utilize them extensively in the perioperative phase unless they choose not to participate.



Is there a difference between weight loss, metabolic, and bariatric surgeries?

There is no real difference between them. The term bariatric stems from the Greek word baros, which means weight. The nomenclature change reflects the scientific community’s prioritization of comorbidity resolution (e.g., diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and fatty liver) over actual weight loss. This is a key issue, since in contrast to adjustable bands, some of the health benefits of the stapled procedures are weight-loss independent and seen very early.

Is weight loss surgery risky?

As with any other surgery, there are risks associated with bariatric operations. For properly prepared patients, however, the risk of not having surgery is often far greater. At University Bariatrics, risk minimization is carried out through aggressive preoperative education and tight control of comorbidities. We openly discuss the risks with you on numerous occasions, and ample time is always given for your questions. This is potentially a life-altering event and you should be well prepared for it prior to surgery.

Where can I get more independent information?

In addition to numerous books and other print media, the Internet is inundated with thousands of websites, chat rooms, and blogs dedicated to weight loss surgery. We do caution you to maintain a high degree of hesitation and reservation as you browse through any of them. Through its website, the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery is a comprehensive and continuously updated source of information. You can also watch interactive educational programs produced by EMMI or visit the NIH medical information website or Covidien’s comprehensive bariatric website.