Trish: We’re here today with Dr. Allan Kalus from Avenue Plastic Surgery in Windsor, Victoria. We’re going to talk about the recent changes that have happened in Medicare with regards to abdominoplasty, tummy tuck, whatever you like to call it. Thank you so much for taking the time again today.
Dr. Allan Kalus: It’s a pleasure Trish.
Trish: Can you tell us what’s happened?
Dr. Allan Kalus: Well Trish as you know, tummy tuck has been a very popular operation for many years, especially for women who have had two children or three children and they find they’ve got a lot of loose skin at the tummy and the muscles also have stretched. A lot of women become very self-conscious. They feel they can’t wear their normal clothes anymore. They can’t wear a bikini on the beach. Tummy tuck has been a very useful procedure where literally all the skin below the belly button gets removed together with any excess fat. The muscle gets tightened and then the skin gets pulled down and tightened, often with a little bit of liposuction as well.
It’s called an abdominoplasty because really the whole abdomen is reshaped as part of a tummy tuck procedure. Recently, in fact from the first of January 2016, the Medicare item number, descriptor for abdominoplasty, has changed. Medicare will only pay a rebate for tummy tucks after massive weight loss where there has been a lot of skin redundancy and persistent rashes under the skin that haven’t responded to medical treatment or where there’s been what is known as a ventral hernia, where the muscles are so far apart that the abdominal contents are starting to protrude.
That is only a very, very small percentage of the patients that traditionally have a tummy tuck. So, as a result of this, abdominoplasty suddenly has become more expensive. Not only is there no Medicare rebate, but it also means that their health funds won’t pay a rebate for the hospital stay. It also means that GST is now applicable. The net result of all this is that the cost of abdominoplasty has gone up probably maybe $3000 or so.
What we at Avenue Plastic Surgery are trying to do to help the women who need abdominoplasty is first of all to offer the procedure as a day case. We’ve actually been doing it as day surgery for a number of years. The critical thing for day surgery is that a patient, to be able to go home the same day, they have to be able to get out of bed on their own and walk to the bathroom. They’ve got to be pain free and not nauseated at all. To do a tummy tuck as day surgery, you really need a very, very good anaesthetic. As part of the surgery, we put nerve blocks in, so that the nerves that convey pain are really blocked.
We find that for many patients, most patients in fact, we’re able to allow them to go home the same day or if not home, to a nearby motel, and then we see them the next day. We’ve had a lot of experience over the last 20 years doing tummy tucks as day surgery. We’ve not had any problems, any complications as a result of sending people home. So, we can offer this as a safe and reliable procedure and it does provide patients with a way of saving some money because they save on the hospital costs.
Trish: Great. That’s fantastic. That’s a great opportunity if you really need one and you don’t have that cover that you’re going to be covered for because there’s no item number, so this will be a great alternative for you. Just one more question. For the massive weight loss patients, you’re still eligible for a Medicare rebate?
Dr. Allan Kalus: In some case, the item number descriptor actually says not only must they have had massive weight loss, but also they have to have had rashes, which are not responding to medical treatment.
Trish: Okay, right.
Dr. Allan Kalus: They’ve actually made it very, very difficult for even massive weight loss patients to claim the tummy tuck surgery.
Trish: Sure, okay. Well, hopefully at some point that might get changed. We can only hope. All right. Well, thank you so much for taking time to talk to us today.
Dr. Allan Kalus: It’s a pleasure Trish. Thank you very much.
Trish: Thank you so much. If you’d like to see Dr. Kalus, he’s at Windsor in Victoria. You can drop us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or click on the link below this video. Thank you.
Dr. Allan Kalus: Thanks Trish.