preloader
GET STARTED Start your journey with our “Do I Qualify” questionnaire

Blog

Cost Comparison: Bariatric Surgery in Canada vs. Abroad

Cost Comparison: Bariatric Surgery in Canada vs. Abroad

An analysis of the costs associated with having surgery in Canada compared to popular medical tourism destinations

At first glance, the cost of bariatric surgery in the private sector in Canada may seem quite costly compared to having bariatric surgery abroad in popular places such as Mexico and Tunisia. As a result, there are many people who choose to have surgery abroad only for the perceived smaller price tag. However, is private bariatric surgery in Canada versus private bariatric surgery abroad all the same except for the price difference? No, it most definitely is not. We set out to compare the differences between the options.
Cost Comparison

Private Bariatric Surgery in Canada/Quebec vs Mexico/Tunisia: What’s the Difference?

Meeting your private bariatric team

First and foremost, when you choose to have bariatric surgery, there is an important relationship of trust that is built between the patient and their bariatric team. It’s of critical importance that the bariatric surgeon, nurse, and dietitian meet their patient before choosing to have surgery so that they can understand you, your lifestyle, your medical and surgical history, your weight history, your concerns, and your goals amongst other things, in order to assess your surgical risk, your projected weight loss outcome with surgery, and to identify the core habits that you may struggle with after surgery and begin to come up with solutions for these.

It’s vital to have that conversation with your surgeon about which surgery is best for you, the sleeve gastrectomy or the gastric bypass. It’s also essential that the nurse and dietitian prepare you for your surgery to learn of every single step of your journey that you are about to embark on, not only the day of surgery, but life long.

In some Mexico and Tunisia private bariatric clinics, they may request that you complete a form with your medical information and provide some test results online. In many cases you never actually meet with or even speak to the surgeon who will operate on you.

By having private bariatric surgery in Canada/Quebec with Dr. Simon Chow you can meet your team before committing to them. Meeting your private bariatric team in person, or by the very least by virtual means is an important way for you to get to know and trust your team, and for your team to get to know you to learn how to best support you on your bariatric journey.

Traveling by plane and support person

When having private bariatric surgery in Canada, you are likely driving to the private hospital where you will be operated on, or in some cases you may choose to fly in if the drive is too long. This becomes a personal choice and all patients bring a support person with them for their bariatric surgery when having it done in Canada/Quebec.

When having surgery abroad, you have no choice but to have to fly to Mexico/Tunisia. The choice for any alternative is not there. Why does this matter? The costs of your flight abroad are not included in the cost of the bariatric surgery, therefore you can be spending an extra few thousands of dollars on transportation to another country in addition to the cost of the surgery. This may sometimes limit having that support person beside them through the surgical procedure, both for emotional and physical support during their recovery in a foreign country. Many people want to have that advocate accompany them during a critical and life-changing moment but the additional costs may not permit this for some people.

In addition, it’s important to consider that there may be additional costs with traveling abroad, such as paying for your hotel stay in the days before your surgery, food costs, and taxi costs which can add up to an extra few thousands of dollars.

By having surgery in Canada/Quebec with Dr. Simon Chow, you have the luxury and privilege of having your support person with you every step of the way and often don’t need to account for the additional expenses of costly transportation and accommodation fees.

Medical insurance and medical emergencies

When traveling abroad for bariatric surgery, you need to purchase very good travel insurance in the possible scenario that you end up with a medical complication. While travel medical insurance will cost you a lot less than the cost of a hotel room for one night, it’s an essential part of having surgery abroad. Without this coverage, you should not undergo major surgery.

In the event of an emergency situation after your bariatric surgery in Mexico/Tunisia you will likely be transported to a local hospital where you would need to have emergency surgery because day surgery centers are not typically equipped with a full hospital. Private hospitals abroad can feel and appear very different from the less luxurious counterparts of a local hospital. You may be transferred and hospitalized for anywhere between 1 night to several weeks or months depending on the complication. In some cases when you are more stable you can return home by airplane or you may need to be transferred by an air ambulance back to Canada for further medical care.

It’s important to ensure that you have air ambulance coverage of several millions of dollars in the possible event of a major complication.

By having surgery in Canada/Quebec with Dr. Simon Chow, if you were to ever experience a complication, you would be transferred to a local quaternary care, academic hospital which is also a Bariatric Centre of Excellence to ensure that you have the experience and support needed to manage a rare but always possible complication. At Weight Loss Surgery Inc., Dr. Chow ensures to remain in contact with the team to any necessary insight into your file to ensure a quality and secure transfer of care.

Recover at home, not in a hotel room

Many online offerings of having surgery abroad claim that you can “have bariatric surgery in paradise” or “on the beach” or “while touring a new country”.

The honest and very truthful reality is that bariatric surgery is a very serious procedure. The surgery requires general anesthesia, recovery in hospital, some pain medication, risks of complications that need to be followed early on after surgery, vital signs that should be monitored, close contact with a bariatric team, etc.

From our experience with our patients who have bariatric surgery in Canada/Quebec, the last thing you are thinking of is a vacation, the beach, or embarking on a bus for a city tour. You are recovering from a surgery that has readjusted your anatomy and from which you have to relearn to eat again and prevent dehydration which is very common after surgery. It is unfortunately not the time for frolicking on the beach and sightseeing, but rather a recovery period of learning to use your new tool.

By having surgery in Canada/Quebec with Dr. Simon Chow, we would recommend an average convalescent period of 4 weeks from work in order to recover from surgery, learn to use your new tool, and connect with our team for any difficulties you are facing. We take surgical recovery very seriously which is nearly as important as the surgery itself.

Dedicated support team….or lack thereof

The bariatric support team and follow-up with them has been shown to be vital to the long term outcomes of bariatric surgery. People who have follow-up with their bariatric team have better weight loss and weight maintenance long term after surgery compared to people who are not followed by a bariatric team. In fact, the public healthcare system regularly sees people who have had bariatric surgery abroad return a few years after surgery to their local bariatric programs with poor weight loss outcomes or having regained a significant amount of weight.

When you return home from surgery abroad you do not have a team that maintains follow-up with you. This can leave people to look for information online or online support groups and Facebook pages. This is hardly the place to look for professional advice for the situation you are facing. Also, upon return home, you do not have your support team who is troubleshooting problems you may face, encouraging you to take your vitamins or finding alternative vitamins that are best suited after bariatric surgery. You are missing a bariatric dietitian who needs to counsel and readapt a plan for you every step of the way after surgery, from week 1 to week 5 to months 6 and 12, and from liquids, to purees, to soft solids and how to navigate your first group dinner at a restaurant after surgery. When choosing to have surgery abroad you are completely missing out on the essential bariatric team that has been shown in the research to result in a better weight loss and better weight maintenance long term.

By having surgery in Canada/Quebec with Dr. Simon Chow, included in the cost of your surgery, is the follow-up by your surgeon for 3 months after surgery while maintaining regular follow up at months 1, 3, 6, and 12 with your bariatric nurse and bariatric dietitian. You will also have access to regular email or phone conversations as needed in between your appointments with our team or answer any questions or address any concerns you may have.

Why does private bariatric surgery in Canada/Quebec cost more than surgery abroad in Mexico/Tunisia?

Dedicated surgeon

In some countries abroad, private bariatric practices sometimes prioritize efficiency by operating on up to 8 to 12 patients per day. It can be quite expensive to pay rent and utilities in a private hospital therefore it makes more economic sense to be running many operating rooms at a time. Given that each bariatric surgery can take anywhere from 60-90 minutes, some bariatric teams abroad will hire surgeon or physician assistants to help operate while the main surgeon oversees the cases from room to room. This means that in some cases, your surgeon is unlikely to be the one making the first incision while you are asleep, or even doing the entire surgery.

At Weight Loss Surgery Inc. with Dr. Simon Chow, we have a maximum standard of 4 patients per operating day because Dr. Chow is your surgeon from start to end. He does not leave the operating room and does not let anyone else place a finger on you throughout your entire surgery. As a result, he dedicates the entire operating time to you and only you; no students, no residents, no physician or surgeon assistants; just Dr. Chow’s meticulous expertise for every single patient he operates on. This is how Dr. Chow ensures every surgery is done safely and effectively without errors that can occur from operating on too many patients in a day with parts of the surgery being done by others.

Hospital quality

We cannot comment on the standards of private hospitals in Mexico/Tunisia as they are unfamiliar to us. However, we are aware of the Canadian standards of health care. Furthermore we perform our surgeries in a true private hospital which has been certified by Accreditation Canada, where safety and security are top priorities. The certification acquired by our private hospital means that you can be assured that the hospital offers a standard of excellence which includes regular and routine assessments to ensure the quality of care that is anticipated of a quality Canadian hospital.

State-of-the-art equipment

We cannot comment on the quality of the equipment used in private hospitals in abroad as they are unfamiliar to us. However, Dr. Chow ensures that every tool he uses is of the latest technology with the best safety ratings and best performance. He meets regularly with the surgical tool industry to learn of advancements that can benefit the surgical safety of his patients.

Is state-of-the-art equipment truly necessary? Yes, it is, because the equipment and tools used, along with experience and expertise, can lower the risk of surgical complications which is always on Dr. Chow’s radar.

Bariatric nurse and bariatric dietitian

The costs of private bariatric surgery in Canada/Quebec are also higher than surgery abroad because our costs cover the pre-surgical and post-surgical follow-up for up to 12 months after surgery. Not only will you have regular follow-up with vital members of the bariatric support team, but you will also have phone and email support as needed in between appointments. The majority of the time you will receive a call back the same day to ensure the quality of care that a private bariatric patient should receive.

When choosing to have surgery abroad, you are not receiving nursing and nutrition follow-up other than a conversation before or after your surgery, following which you are often left on your own. Once the surgery is done, you have paid for your service and little or no service or support is there for you when you return home from Mexico/Tunisia. Unfortunately, most family doctors are unfamiliar with how to care for a bariatric patient after their surgery and are unaware and inexperienced with the short term and long term complications to look out for or ask about.

It is important for Dr. Chow that his patients experience the best results after surgery. While the cost of surgery in Canada/Quebec could be less if he did not offer nursing and nutrition support, he chooses to provide the best care for patients by ensuring that they are equipped with evidence-based follow-up of care after bariatric surgery. By ensuring the support team is available for every single patient he is ensuring the best result and outcome for everyone.

At Weight Loss Surgery Inc. with Dr. Simon Chow, it’s not just about another surgery, another dollar made; it’s about offering supportive quality care for every single one of his patients.

Does private bariatric surgery in Canada/Quebec cost more than surgery abroad in Mexico/Tunisia?

Hidden costs

At first glance, it’s no wonder that some people decide to have surgery abroad. When you see prices abroad for a sleeve gastrectomy marketed as $4700 or $5850 compared to $18,000 for private bariatric surgery in Montreal, it seems like a significant cost-saving option.

However, when you account for the additional expenses when traveling abroad and account for the currency exchange, a surgery marketed at $4700 USD can quickly become much more!

For example, a bariatric surgery at $4700 USD becomes $6413 CAD when accounting for currency exchange. You must then account for the cost of purchasing medical travel insurance, a return plane ticket for you and your support person, your hotel room and transportation costs for your first night arriving abroad in the days before your surgery, additional testing that is required by the facilities abroad such as a gastroscopy or scan, and of course your food and drinks. The total after accounting for all of this is approximately $8633 CAD….a far cry from $4700 that was initially advertised.

It’s commonly known that bariatric surgery alone without the support does not result in successful weight loss or weight loss maintenance after 1 year. If you want to ensure a successful outcome with your bariatric surgery you would need to consult with a specialized bariatric dietitian which can amount to up to $1000 CAD in follow-up for one year, or more. The total for surgery abroad has now increased to nearly $9633 CAD.

By having private bariatric surgery in Canada/Quebec with Dr. Simon Chow, there are no hidden costs. We offer turnkey pricing to ensure that there are surprises, no additions, no extra costs because of your BMI, no extra costs if your surgery takes longer to perform than the last person, and no extra costs if you need to speak with the dietitian more than expected. A sleeve costs $18,000 and a gastric bypass costs $25,000, those are the fixed prices with no further surprises. If you live far away from our hospital in Montreal, you will need to pay your own way for travel expenses and hotel fees for 1 night prior to surgery and 1-2 nights after surgery recommended for your own security and safety.

Claiming bariatric surgery as a medical expense on Canadian taxes

Bariatric surgery is considered a medical procedure, not a cosmetic procedure. Therefore, this means that you can claim the cost of your bariatric surgery on your Canadian and provincial tax returns. Many of our patients have seen significant returns of up to $5000 when having surgery with Dr. Simon Chow, however this depends largely on your income; we highly recommend consulting with an accountant to obtain an estimate of your return based on your personal financial situation.

When claiming the medical/surgical expenses abroad, an assessment must first be made to determine if it was warranted to have surgery abroad, how much of the cost goes towards surgery vs transportation costs vs hotel costs, etc. Therefore when filing medical expenses from surgery performed abroad, an accountant can not provide you with a definitive tax credit estimation because the decision lies in the hands of the government as to whether this will be approved, how much, and at what percentage.

When accounting for the average of $5000 return of private bariatric surgery as a medical expense coupled with private insurance coverage for dietitian consultations (plan-dependant), the total cost of your surgery quickly reduced from the turnkey price of $18,000 with nearly a $6000 possible return between private insurance claims and federal and provincial tax credits (please consult with an accountant for your personal estimate).

The true difference in cost between surgery in Canada/Quebec vs Mexico/Tunisia

Accounting for all of this can result in a true difference in cost of about $4000 CAD between having private bariatric in Canada/Quebec and having surgery abroad. For some this $4000 may be too much, while for others, the $4000 difference may well be worth the safety, effectiveness, support, outcomes, and peace of mind that they hope to experience with their decision to have private bariatric surgery.

The decision is yours to consider what is most important to you, in the hopes that this comparison helps shed some light for some people when making the life-altering and courageous decision to choose your private bariatric surgery facility.

The table below has been created to help you compare the cost and expenses for a sleeve gastrectomy. In order to view it on a mobile device please download the PDF version.

WLS
Mexico
Tunisia
Turkey
  • Surgery cost sleeve as indicated on website
  • Surgery cost when accounting for all hidden fees (Cost includes travel for you and your support person)
  • $18,000 CAD
  • $9633 CAD
  • Unclear
  • $11,755 CAD
  • Total estimated cost of surgery after accounting for tax credits and private insurance claims (You should verify your tax credit return with an accountant)
  • $12,400
  • Unclear. $8853
  • Unclear
  • Unclear. $10,980
Inclusions:
WLS
Mexico
Tunisia
Turkey
  • Consultation with your surgeon before surgery
  • Pre-op bloodwork, ECG, physical
  • All tests reviewed by your surgeon.
  • Unclear who reviews these.
  • Unclear.
  • Included.
  • Pre-op nursing education
  • In person or virtual consultation, as per your preference. Education and documents reviewed, personalized to you.
  • None, given documents to read.
  • Virtual consultation.
  • Unclear.
  • Pre-op dietitian education
  • In person or virtual consultation, as per your preference. Education and documents reviewed, personalized to you.
  • None, given documents to read.
  • Virtual consultation.
  • Unclear.
  • Pre-op liquid diet
  • Included.
  • Not included, follow a diet.
  • Unclear.
  • Included.
  • Medical travel insurance
  • Not applicable.
  • ~$50-60 CAD
  • ~$50-60 CAD
  • ~$50-60 CAD
  • Plane ticket
  • Not applicable. You have the comfort of having your support person visit you in our private hospital.
  • $1400-1600 CAD. Price for 2 return flight tickets if you travel with a support person. Otherwise, $700-800 per person.
  • $2400-4000 CAD. Price for 2 return flight tickets if you travel with a support person. Otherwise, $1200-2000 CAD per person.
  • $4600 CAD. Price for 2 return tickets if you travel with support person. Includes hotel, meals, and taxi. Otherwise, $2300 CAD per person.
  • Transportation from airport to your hotel
  • Not applicable.
  • ~ $35 CAD
  • Included.
  • Included.
  • Hotel room upon arrival
  • Not applicable.
  • $400-700 CAD for 2 nights. $200 - 350 per night, depending on your standards. Minimum 1 night, possibly 2 for return home.
  • Unclear.
  • Included.
  • Car pick up from hotel to hospital
  • Not applicable.
  • Included.
  • Included.
  • Included.
  • Gastroscopy required before surgery for everyone
  • Rarely required, can be done in the public system with RAMQ.
  • $136 CAD. Required for everyone.
  • Unclear if required.
  • Included.
  • Surgery (operating room, supplies, etc.)
  • Included.
  • Included.
  • Included.
  • Included.
  • Anesthesia and anesthesiologist
  • Included.
  • Included.
  • Included.
  • Included.
  • Medication needed during hospitalization
  • Included.
  • Included.
  • Included.
  • Included.
  • Hospital stay
  • Included, admitted to a private Accredited Canadian hospital.
  • Included, admitted to a hospital as per Mexican standards of healthcare.
  • Included, admitted to a hospital as per Tunisian standards of healthcare.
  • Included, admitted to a hospital as per Turkey standards of healthcare.
  • Hotel room in Mexico/Tunisia/Turkey to recover after surgery
  • Not applicable. If you live very far from Montreal you may be advised to stay locally for 1 more night at your own expense for your own safety.
  • Included.
  • Included.
  • Included.
  • Surgeon follow-up
  • 3 months, in person or virtual, as per your preference.
  • None.
  • Unclear.
  • None.
  • Dietitian care, regular appointments and follow-up
  • Pre-op and 12 months of support after surgery in person or virtual as per your preference. Scheduled regular appointments at 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, and 12 months after surgery in addition to email or phone communication in between appointments as needed. *Note: all. Dietitian appointments can be claimed on private insurance covering this service, totaling $750.
  • One conversation in Mexico, no further care.
  • Unclear.
  • None.
  • Nursing care
  • Pre-op and 12 months of support after surgery in person or virtual as per your preference. Scheduled regular appointments at 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, and 12 months after surgery in addition to email or phone communication in between appointments as needed.
  • Phone calls with a USA-based nurse.
  • Unclear.
  • None.
  • Communications sent to your family doctor about your bariatric surgery
  • Family doctors are sent bariatric surgery information packages so that they may understand and support you as needed. Your surgeon’s contact information is provided to them.
  • Unclear.
  • Unclear.
  • Unclear.
  • Additional costs not included in initial reported cost
  • None. You are not charged a penny more than what we list on our website.
  • $3220
  • Minimum of $2220+ CAD for costs mentioned above.
  • If you consult with a dietitian in private at per recommendations pre-op, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, and 12 months after surgery with occasional email or phone support, total amounts to ~ $1000.
  • Unclear.
  • $5755
  • Price for travel with support person. If you travel alone cost is $2355.
  • If you consult with a dietitian in private at per recommendations pre-op, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, and 12 months after surgery with occasional email or phone support, total amounts to ~ $1000.
  • Total:
  • $18,000
  • $9633
  • Unclear.
  • $11,755
  • Possible amount received back after medical expenses claimed on taxes, dependant on your income.
  • *Always speak to your accountant for your exact estimation prior to surgery.
  • Approximately $5000 CAD as per results of previous patients.
  • Unclear due to surgery being done in another country.
  • Unclear.
  • Unclear due to surgery being done in another country.
  • Amount that can easily be claimed on private insurance
  • Dietitian consultations, $750 worth at ~75-80% coverage = $560-600.
  • Note: you are not charged for any additional email or phone support.
  • Private dietitian consultations, about $1000 depending your use, at a coverage at ~75-80% coverage = $750-800.
  • Unclear.
  • Private dietitian consultations, about $1000 depending your use, at a coverage at ~75-80% coverage = $750-800.
  • Possible total cost of surgery after tax return and private insurance claims
  • $12,400
  • Unclear. $8853
  • Unclear.
  • Unclear. $10,980
  • Safety and security of having surgery in your own home country with a dedicated bariatric team supporting you one year after your journey
  • Priceless.
  • You decide.
  • You decide.
  • You decide.