Medicare for Thigh Lift Surgery

Medicare Coverage for Thigh Lift Surgery

Thigh lift surgery, a procedure designed to reshape the thighs by reducing excess skin and, in some cases, fat, aims to result in smoother skin and better-proportioned contours of the thighs and lower body. This surgery is particularly relevant for those who have experienced significant weight changes, leading to sagging skin in the thigh area.

When considering such a procedure in Australia, it’s essential to understand the role of Medicare in providing coverage. Medicare, the country’s publicly funded universal healthcare system, offers various levels of support for different medical procedures. However, it’s important to note that Medicare’s coverage for surgeries like thigh lift operations is subject to specific conditions and criteria.

Medicare might provide coverage for surgical procedures that are deemed medically necessary. This means the surgery must be required to treat or diagnose a health condition. In the context of thigh lift surgery, Medicare coverage is usually applicable when the procedure is needed to address issues that go beyond mere cosmetic concerns. For instance, if the excess skin in the thigh region is causing physical discomfort, hygiene problems, or other health-related issues, Medicare may consider the surgery as necessary from a medical standpoint.

It’s also important to understand that while Medicare can cover certain aspects of the thigh lift surgery, it may not cover all associated costs. This includes expenses related to hospital stays, anaesthetist fees, and other related medical services. In some cases, private health insurance may provide additional coverage, which can help manage any out-of-pocket costs.

Specialist Plastic Surgeon Dr Michael Kernohan performs thigh lift surgery in the Sydney and western suburbs areas.

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Guide Excess Skin Reduction

Overview of Medicare System

Medicare is designed to provide accessible and affordable medical care to all Australian citizens and permanent residents. It’s a publicly funded program that significantly reduces the cost of a wide range of health services and medications. Understanding how Medicare functions and its different components is essential, especially when considering surgical procedures such as thigh lift surgery.

Medicare Basics

Funded by taxpayers, Medicare primarily aims to ensure all Australians have access to quality healthcare without excessive financial burden. It covers a portion of the costs for visiting your surgeon, specialists, and other healthcare providers. Additionally, Medicare provides benefits for specific diagnostic services and public hospital care.

Medicare Coverage for Surgery

When it comes to surgery, Medicare’s role is to subsidise the cost of medically necessary procedures. This includes some surgical operations performed by your surgeon in both public and private hospitals. However, the extent of coverage and the conditions under which it applies can vary depending on the nature of the surgery.

Eligibility Criteria for Medicare Coverage

When considering thigh lift surgery under Medicare in Australia, understanding the eligibility criteria is essential. Medicare, as a national health scheme, provides certain coverage, but it’s guided by stringent eligibility requirements, especially for surgical procedures like thigh lift surgery. It’s important to be aware of these criteria to determine if you can receive financial support for your surgery.

  • General Eligibility for Medicare: Initially, it’s important to be enrolled in Medicare, which is available to Australian citizens, permanent residents, and certain overseas visitors from countries with a reciprocal healthcare agreement. Being a Medicare cardholder is the first step to accessing its benefits
  • Medical Necessity: A key factor for Medicare coverage of thigh lift surgery is the medical necessity of the procedure. This means the surgery must be intended to address a medical condition or issue, rather than purely for aesthetic improvements. Conditions such as chronic skin infections or issues caused by significant weight loss can make one eligible for coverage
  • Documentation from plastic surgeon: Adequate documentation from your surgeon outlining the medical reasons for the surgery is vital: This typically includes a detailed medical history, the specific problems caused by the condition, and an explanation of why surgery is necessary to address these issues
  • Prior Treatments and Their Outcomes: Medicare often requires evidence that non-surgical treatments have been tried and have not effectively resolved the condition. This may include physical therapy, weight management programs, or other non-invasive treatments

MBS Item Numbers Explained

These numbers are central to the claim process, acting as unique identifiers for specific medical services and procedures. In the context of thigh lift surgery, certain item numbers like 30169, are particularly relevant. These number corresponds to different aspects or conditions of the surgery, and understanding their use and implications is key to navigating the Medicare claims process effectively.

  • Item Number 30169: Removal of redundant non-abdominal skin and lipectomy for functional problems following significant weight loss equivalent to at least 5 body mass index points and if there has been a stable weight for a period of at least 6 months prior to surgery, one or 2 non-abdominal areas, other than a service associated with a service to which item 30175, 30176, 45530, 45531, 45564, 45565, 45567, 46060, 46062, 46064, 46066, 46068, 46070, 46072, 46080, 46082, 46084, 46086, 46088 or 46090 applies (H)

Out-of-Pocket Expenses

Out-of-pocket expenses refer to costs that are not reimbursed by Medicare. These can vary widely depending on several factors, including the specifics of the surgical procedure, the hospital chosen for the surgery, and the fees charged by the medical professionals involved. Common out-of-pocket expenses for thigh lift surgery may include:

  • Surgeon Fees: While Medicare covers part of your surgeon’s fee, your surgeon may charge above the Medicare Benefit Schedule (MBS) fee, leading to a gap that the patient is responsible for covering
  • Anaesthetist Fees: Similar your surgeon fee, anaesthetists may charge more than the Medicare rebate, resulting in additional costs for the patient
  • Hospital Charges: If you opt for a private hospital or a private room in a public hospital, you may incur costs not fully covered by Medicare. These can include room charges, operating theatre fees, and other hospital services
  • Medication and Post-Surgery Garments: Costs for prescription medications and specialised garments required after surgery may also not be covered by Medicare

Open communication with your plastic surgeon’s team is vital in understanding the total cost of your thigh lift surgery. Your surgeon and anaesthetists should be able to provide estimates of their fees and explain any potential gap payments. Hospitals can also provide an estimate of any charges that may apply to your stay and surgery. Gathering this information will give you a clearer picture of the financial commitments involved.

Exploring Additional Insurance Options

  • Private Health Insurance: If you have private health insurance, it’s important to contact your insurer to discuss what is covered under your policy. Some insurance plans may cover the gap between the Medicare rebate and the actual fees charged by your surgeon, anaesthetists, and hospitals
  • Supplemental Policies: Consider whether purchasing a supplemental insurance policy is a viable option for you. Some policies are designed to cover the types of expenses not covered by Medicare or standard private health insurance policies

Financial Planning for Surgery

  • Savings: Setting aside savings specifically for your surgery can help manage costs not covered by Medicare or insurance
  • Payment Plans: Some clinics offer payment plans that allow you to pay off the surgery costs over time. Discuss this possibility with your surgeon’s team

Private Health Insurance for Thigh Lift Surgery

Private health insurance offers additional coverage beyond what Medicare provides, allowing patients more choice in their healthcare, including the option to be treated as private patients in either public or private hospitals. Policyholders may have access to a broader range of healthcare services, including dental, physiotherapy, and elective surgeries, which might not be fully covered by Medicare.

  • Private Health Insurance and Hospital Cover: One of the key benefits of private health insurance is the coverage for hospital stays and surgeries. Depending on your policy, it can cover the gap between what Medicare pays and the total cost of your surgical treatment, including hospital accommodation, theatre fees, and additional charges related to your surgery
  • Choosing Your Plastic Surgeon and Hospital: Private health insurance also gives you the flexibility to choose your plastic surgeon and hospital for procedures like thigh lift surgery. This can significantly impact your comfort, the timing of your surgery, and potentially the outcome of your procedure
  • Reducing Out-of-Pocket Costs: By having private health insurance, you can reduce your out-of-pocket expenses for surgeries not fully covered by Medicare. It’s important to check your policy details and speak with your insurer to understand what is covered, especially for specific procedures like thigh lift surgery

Combining Medicare and Private Health Insurance

For those considering thigh lift surgery, understanding how to effectively combine Medicare benefits with private health insurance coverage can lead to more comprehensive financial protection. Here’s how they can work together:

  • Medicare will cover a portion of the medical fees associated with your surgery, based on the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS).
  • Private health insurance can cover some of the remaining gap for your surgeon’s and anaesthetist’s fees, as well as hospital costs, depending on your level of cover

FAQs about Medicare and Tight Lift


Will Medicare cover my thigh lift surgery?

  • Medicare will cover thigh lift surgery if it is deemed medically necessary. This means the surgery must be required to address or correct a medical condition, such as skin infections or mobility issues caused by excess skin after significant weight loss. Coverage involves specific item numbers that relate to the procedure’s medical necessity. It’s essential to consult with your plastic surgeon to determine if your situation meets the criteria set by Medicare.

What specific Medicare item numbers apply to thigh lift surgery?

  • For thigh lift surgeries deemed medically necessary, Medicare provides coverage under item numbers 30169. Excision of excess non-abdominal skin and lipectomy to address functional issues arising from substantial weight reduction, equivalent to a decrease of at least five points on the body mass index scale. This procedure is applicable if the patient’s weight has remained stable for a minimum of six months before the surgery, covering one or two non-abdominal areas.

Can private health insurance cover the costs not covered by Medicare for thigh lift surgery?

  • Yes, if you have private health insurance, it may cover some of the costs not covered by Medicare, including hospital stay, operating theatre fees, and some of the gap between the Medicare rebate and your surgeon fee. The extent of coverage depends on your insurance policy details. It’s important to contact your insurance provider before the surgery to understand what is covered and any out-of-pocket expenses you may incur.

Further Reading about Tight Lift and Body Contouring with Dr Michael Kernohan

Medical References about Tight Lift