Dr Scott Turner

It wasn’t long ago we were dealing with Medicare taking away rebates for Abdominoplasty and it seems they are about to take some more off the list! Some of them are going to affect YOU so be warned! We spoke with Specialist Plastic Surgeon Dr Scott Turner FRACS from Dee Why in NSW, about what procedures might be affected and what these changes will mean for patients.

Most of us know that Medicare will not cover any procedure deemed to be “cosmetic”. However, it looks to be that they will take this one step further and remove several more “cosmetic” procedures that can really affect a person’s quality of life. One of these is otoplasty, or ear surgery. Otoplasty is surgery commonly performed for those kids who have ears that stick out more than most. Another is breast asymmetry surgery, also known as tuberous breast, often performed on younger females (most commonly in the 16 – 25yrs bracket but can affect women of any age) with one breast noticeably larger than the other. These are just two of the more common procedures that although currently have Medicare Item Numbers, will soon have them no longer. If you are considering either of these procedures, NOW is the time.

Necessity or functionality?

We all know kids can be cruel. Growing up and navigating childhood and then adolescence and puberty can be difficult enough. Add to that ears that stick out and it can be a recipe for teasing, anxiety, social reclusion and a myriad of other effects.

Whilst some say it might not be a life threatening situation, we suggest you consider the increasing amount of children and young teens subject to bullying and consequent attempts to take their own lives. We understand that an ear operation is not going to help with all of these cases, however it definitely affects a few. Dr Turner shared his thoughts on the subject. “It’s typical patient for parents to be apprehensive about having their child undergo a surgical procedure that may be considered ‘unnecessary’; but when they see the effects of teasing and bullying from other kids, slowly watching them withdraw from all social activities, they feel they don’t have a choice.”

Otoplasty might not be always done because of the functional capability of the ear, but when kids are bullied to the point where they need counselling or even more dire consequences, shouldn’t ear surgery be available to them through Medicare?

Dr Turner agrees, “Now to be told it’s a ‘cosmetic’ procedure with no Medicare rebate, makes the cost of the procedure much more expensive, by $4k – $5k which for most families makes it unaffordable; and it’s virtually impossible to get it done in a public hospital now.”

Mental Health Concerns?

It’s the same for women with breast asymmetry. Dr Turner tells us this condition occurs more often than you might think and has strong views on the subject. “We get, on a monthly basis, several 16-25yr female come in, usually with their mum who often has no idea of her daughter’s breast shape. As the daughter is often ashamed of their breast asymmetry and haven’t allowed their mum to see them naked, ever since puberty started. They are fearful about going swimming because the bra filler may fall out. Imagine living next to the beach on the Northern Beaches of Sydney being a young women and not wanting to go for a swim or surf as you can’t wear swimmers because your breasts don’t fit… The benefit we see in confidence and self esteem after tuberous breast correction is amazing, and in a time when we are meant to be so protective about mental health issues, to exclude this significant impact on someone’s wellbeing this seems absurd.”

We agree. Unfortunately, there’s little we can do about it. Some of the other procedures that are likely to be removed include:

Item Number: 45557 BREAST PTOSIS unilateral and bilateral
Item Number: 35534 VULVOPLASTY or LABIOPLASTY for localised gigantism if it can be demonstrated that: (a) the structural abnormality is causing significant functional impairment; and (b) non-surgical treatments have failed.
Item Number: 45020 FULL FACE CHEMICAL PEEL for severe chloasma or melasma

There are other items to be revised to reduce the amount of patients eligible to receive Medicare cover, however these are the ones likely to completely be removed.

So, put off your procedure no more. Arrange a consult. Talk to your plastic surgeon.

To read more about medicare, check out these articles.

What are the Changes to the Medicare Funding for Tummy Tuck / Abdominoplasty?
Industry Lobbies Medicare Re: Abdominoplasty
Dr Allan Kalus – Changes to Abdominoplasty Medicare Cover
Body Lift – what’s the Medicare story? With Dr Tim, Cosmetic Culture NSW
Non-surgical Symposium 2016 – Blepharoplasty & Medicare rebates with Dr Naveen Somia


Trish is a plastic surgery blogger. She is passionate about wellbeing, health and beauty, and doesn't mind a little bit of 'help' from the amazing cosmetic and beauty procedures that are available today. Trish spends her days talking to women and men who are looking for suggestions and advice on procedures that are available to them. Cutting through the sales pitch and hype, a down-to-earth response on general information is what you will get.

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