Introduction

Plastic surgery can be an expensive endeavour and it is important to be aware of all the costs involved. This includes costs that will be encountered in the short term and those which may be encountered in the long term, such as the cost of follow-up surgery.


Factors affecting the cost of plastic surgery

The cost of plastic surgery varies depending on the type of surgery and the provider. Individuals considering plastic surgery need to obtain specific price information from their plastic surgeon of choice. They should enquire about what the surgery fee does and does not include, to avoid additional expenses. Costs estimates should consider fees for the:

  • Surgeon;
  • Hospital or other facility where the operation will be performed;
  • Anaesthetist;
  • Prescription medication;
  • Garments to be worn after the operation to assist with recovery; and
  • Medical tests.


Medicare

In Australia, all plastic surgeons registered with the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons are recognised by Medicare. To receive a Medicare rebate, individuals must ensure they receive a referral letter from their general practitioner to attend the specialist. Medicare will only provide a rebate to patients who were referred to the specialist by a general practitioner. In addition, individuals should be aware that plastic surgery is only covered by Medicare when it is medically indicated (that is when it is necessary for health and not only cosmetic reasons).


Health insurance considerations

Plastic surgery costsIt is important to be aware that insurance coverage for plastic surgery varies greatly. Cosmetic surgery is typically unnecessary for health reasons. It is therefore considered elective surgery and is not covered by health insurance. Reconstructive surgery on the other hand is carried out for health reasons and is usually covered by health insurance policies. There may however be considerable variation in the extent of coverage for different procedures.

Identical procedures carried out for different reasons may be considered reconstructive or elective. For example, a face lift performed on a paralysed person to re-align the face and restore a normal appearance might be considered reconstructive, whereas a face lift carried out to improve the appearance of an ageing face is considered cosmetic.


Overseas plastic surgery: Plastic surgery ‘holidays’

Some people may consider having plastic surgery operations performed overseas in order to save money. When considering the costs of overseas plastic surgery, it is important to consider the full cost of the surgery, as well as additional costs such as travel and accommodation.

It is also important to consider the potential for additional costs following the operation if complications (e.g. infections) develop. As Australia’s health professionals and facilities are amongst the best in the world, the likelihood of complications following plastic surgery is lower in Australia than in many other countries, even if the initial surgery costs are higher.

A considerable number of Australians develop complications following overseas plastic surgery procedures. For example, doctors in Western Australia reported seeing 66 patients with post-operative complications from overseas plastic surgery in a three year period from 2004 to 2007. Patients who undergo plastic surgery procedures in foreign countries cannot return to the surgeon who operated on them if they develop post-operative complications, and thus may need to pay a local plastic surgeon for post-operative care.

References

  1. Wood SF, Spear SL. What do women need to know and when do they need to know it? Plast Reconstr Surg. 2007;120(7 Suppl 1):135-9S.
  2. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Arm lift [online]. St Leonards, NSW: Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons; 2009 [cited 10 May 2010]. Available from URL: http://www.plasticsurgery.org.au/default.aspx?itemid=163
  3. Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons [online]. St Leonards, NSW: Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons; 2009 [cited 2 May 2010]. Available from URL: http://www.plasticsurgery.org.au/
  4. Procedures overview [online]. St Leonards, NSW: Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons; 2009 [cited 2 May 2010]. Available from URL: http://www.plasticsurgery.org.au/Patients-and-Consumers/Procedures/Procedures-Overview/
  5. Therapeutic Goods Administration. Breast implants information booklet (4th edition) [online]. Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing; 2001 [cited 10 May 2010]. Available from URL: http://www.tga.gov.au/docs/pdf/breasti4.pdf
  6. UK Government Department of Health. Considering plastic surgery? [online]. UK Government National Archives; 15 May 2007 [cited 10 May 2010]. Available from URL: http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publichealth/CosmeticSurgery/DH_4123795
  7. Holidays from hell: When bargain surgery goes wrong [media release]. St Leonards, NSW: Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons; 1 May 2007 [cited 8 June 2010]. Available from URL: http://www.plasticsurgery.org.au/_framework/modules/repository/DownloadFile.ashx?guid=67d1bd07-397d-453b-9f22-8b3d49bb3103