NIB is one of Australia’s premium private health insurance funds that have been around for over 60 years. They have recently been criticised for buying out www.breast.com.au along with their plan to send cosmetic surgery procedures overseas.
This plan to actively promote overseas surgery has created uproar in the Australian cosmetic and plastic surgery industry. With Newcastle plastic surgeon Dr Nicholas Moncrieff writing a letter to the federal Health Minister, Peter Dutton to voice his concerns about the possible complications and costs that this would put on tax payers. Dr. Moncrieff explained that on average his practice sees at least one unhappy patient a week who has had a bad experience with an overseas surgery procedure.
“We have written to [Health Minister] Peter Dutton expressing our concerns for patients, taxpayers and health fund members who will have to pick up the pieces when things go wrong,” Dr Moncrieff explained to the Newcastle Herald.
“The problem is that it does glamorise a lot of surgery and makes it seem like you can go off and have a holiday.” Dr. Moncrieff went on to explain.
There are no exact figures that can tell us how many Australians are heading overseas for plastic surgery. This is partly due to the fact that most cosmetic surgery is elective and not covered by Medicare, particularly if it is a procedure being performed overseas. A recent survey conducted by the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) found that breast surgery was the most common kind of surgery conducted overseas requiring corrective treatment.
Of course things can go wrong in Australia too, all surgery comes with risks, but at least if the surgery was performed here in Australia there is an Australian legal system and medical system that ensures a patients’ best interests will be looked after if this is the case. And, no need to travel back overseas, you are here already!
A spokesperson for NIB said that medical tourism is going ahead anyway. Even though this may be the case it is unclear as to whether the patient is covered by insurance and if so to what extent that policy might cover costs associated with additional medical expenses, travel and accommodation costs should they be required and what legal framework covers the patient for any possible malpractice. In addition it is simply not possible for a person considering a particular procedure to have the requisite consultations with their surgeon to ensure that they are 100% happy with them if the surgeon is sourced by a third party and located overseas.
Our advice to people considering overseas surgery is to very carefully weigh up all of the costs and risks associated with such surgery before committing to such a potentially high risk course of action. Very often travelling overseas for cosmetic surgery is a false economy.