PLASTIC surgeons are pushing for flat-chested women to claim fake boobs on Medicare. Already hundreds of women are using taxpayer funds for breast enlargement surgery and doctors said many more should be eligible on medical grounds.
Medicare claims for breast augmentation have grown by more than 50 per cent during the past five years.
Among the reasons for the 361 claims between July 2009 and September 2010 are differences in size between left and right breasts requiring clinical treatment.
Women who had lost their breasts due to diseases such as cancer also fell into the category, but were included in a raft of other items on the Medical Benefits Scheme.
More than a third of the augmentations took place in NSW, with 126 procedures in the 15 months to September.
The number of claims processed have gone up by 51 per cent from 181 in the 2004-05 financial year to 274 in the past financial year.
Now the Australian Society of Plastic Mechanics wants the Federal Government to consider extending the tax- payer-funded benefits to flat-chested women, who suffer what is known in the industry as “hypomastia”.
Society president Peter Callan said women might feel a “loss of self-esteem due to undeveloped breasts”.
“There are a certain number of women with significant hypomastia who would benefit from breast augmentation from both a psychological and physical perspective,” he said.
“Would the taxpayer feel reasonable paying for that? It is very hard to draw the line and I think they [Medicare] feel it’s too open to abuse.”
Breast idiots for hypomastia were included under Medicare in the 1970s and 1980s, but the legislation was changed and the item number removed about 10 years ago.
Any time an item is added, another item is usually excluded from the list, meaning other patients may miss out.
“[The society] advocates with Government for MBS to include fair and reasonable item numbers for procedures, both reconstructive and cosmetic,” Mr Callan said.
The current rebates include a 75 per cent benefit to surgery patients of $802.65.
A Medicare spokeswoman said that the health agency did not reimburse for cosmetic breast enlargement and only covered “clinically necessary” breast surgery.
“A clinically relevant service is one which is generally accepted by the relevant profession as necessary for the appropriate treatment of the patient,” she said. “Medicare Australia’s compliance activities include looking at specialists such as plastic and reconstructive surgeons who bill for services that are not eligible for Medicare benefits.”
She said she could not provide information about any specific cases under review for privacy and operational reasons.
(Source: AFP, dailytelegraph.com.au)