Will Medicare Still Pay for Plastic Surgery after 1 November 2018?

Plastic Surgery Medicare Criteria Changes: Definitions, Codes and Coverage

The Australian Government recently announced significant changes to the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) for Plastic Surgery code items. This MBS change could impact ANY Plastic Surgery patient currently scheduled for an operation ON or AFTER 1 November 2018; IF their plastic surgery procedure is currently eligible for a Medicare code/Medicare rebate and/or Health Fund coverage.

  • These November 2018 MBS changes do NOT impact purely cosmetic surgery procedures.
  • That’s because Cosmetic Procedures are NEVER covered by Medicare or private Health Funds.

However, these upcoming changes to the Medicare Rebate Schedule (MBS) DO IMPACT operations that are corrective, restorative, reconstructive and/or otherwise medically necessary versus cosmetic in nature.

MBS review and Medicare criteria changes for Plastic Surgery operations may potentially impact:



Brief Synopsis of the Media Release about MBS Changes (Medicare Criteria Changes coming into effect on 1 November 2018):

  1. If you have surgery scheduled on or after 1 November 2018, any eligibility for a Medicare or Health Fund Rebate COULD change.  Why? Definitions and criteria to meet eligibility are changing. Some Plastic Surgery items may be removed entirely from the MBS, meaning no eligibility for Medicare funding or Private Health Fund cover.
  2. The Medicare CLAIMS REVIEW Team is being dissolved. Instead, the Medical Benefits Schedule Review Task Force is aiming to significantly change the MBS to increase medical treatment coverage CLARITY such as changing criteria and condition definitions.
  3. Plastic Surgery items are NOT the only MBS code items being clarified or changed. Several other areas of medicine are also being impacted by MBS review changes.

How new MBS Changes it might impact YOU as a patient.

  • Many cosmetic patients are self-funded; and these operations have no MBS rebate eligibility.
  • However, some patients are having medically warranted procedures.
  • These surgeries will correct a deformity or reduce a painful or problematic medical condition that reconstructive Plastic Surgery operations can help improve.

But new MBS changes mean that if you WERE covered when you scheduled your operation, or last had a consultation, you may NO LONGER be eligible after 1 November 2018.


If your CURRENT condition and scheduled Plastic Surgery procedure does NOT warrant a Medicare code AFTER the 1st November 2018 changes to the Australian Government’s MBS, it ALSO means your Private Health Fund / Health Insurance company, like BUPA, is NOT going to cover any of your hospital stay, Surgeon’s fees, Anaesthetist and/or other surgery costs.

The Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons also released a statement about November 2018 Medicare criteria changes for Plastic Surgery procedures.


The bottom line of these November 2018 Medicare Changes to Plastic Surgery procedures is likely to be:

  • you may no longer meet criteria if eligibility definitions CHANGE or if your procedure code is REMOVED from the Medicare Rebate Schedule
  • you’ll likely have to see more Doctors and/or Specialists BEFORE having Plastic Surgery for any items still covered by Medicare after 1 November 2018
  • you’ll have even MORE paperwork and reports needing to be completed and submitted to Medicare and/or your Private Health Insurance Fund
  • you’ll likely incur greater out-of-pocket expenses prior to your Surgery or your overall surgery costs may increase
  • you may need to have separate operations versus two procedures at one time in order to have a rebate

Anticipated/Estimated Surgery Patient Impact:

For patients scheduled for reconstructive, restorative or corrective Plastic Surgery AFTER these MBS changes go into effect on 1 November 2018:

  • higher surgery costs (estimated)
  • more visits and reports to other medical professionals (more extensive paperwork and image submissions)
  • some conditions may no longer be eligible and NO Medicare code may apply; this means your Private Health Fund will ALSO not cover your operation costs.

Note this information may change as more NEWS RELEASES arise in relation to the Medicare Schedule changes.

Higher Surgery Costs and No Eligibility from Medicare or Your Health Fund such as BUPA, AHM, Australia Unity Health and other Private Health Funds

  • you may no longer be eligible for any rebate coverage from either Medicare or your Private Health Insurance Fund depending on your procedure and how these changes impact your eligibility.
  • that’s because to have private Health Insurance Fund coverage/rebates on any medical procedure, it must also first meet Medicare eligibility criteria.
  • even condition that meet criteria for MBS rebates sometimes are rejected by Private Health Insurance Funds who have extensive and complicated exclusion clauses


Potential outcomes of recent changes to the MBS criteria for corrective, restorative or reconstructive Plastic Surgery procedures such as corrective eyelid surgery (Blepharoplasty) when vision is impeded , reconstructive breast lift surgery or Reduction Mammoplasty for breast ptosis and/or breast-size related back pain, and other procedures for skin reduction, diastasis recti and hernia repair after significant weight loss (a Belt Lipectomy/Circumferential Abdominoplasty, for example, after Bariatric Surgery).

This information is only general in nature and only an estimate of the impacts based on reports and media releases in relation to the changes to Medicare codes for Plastic Surgery, effective 1 November 2018.

To find out more, contact MBS or your private health fund or phone our offices for a Guide to Plastic Surgery procedures.

Find out how MBS reviews and Medicare Rebate Schedule changes occur.

Changes to MBS for Plastic Surgery – such as removal and replacement of breast implants – are likely to be partially related to rising Heath Care costs handling complications with overseas cosmetic surgery patients and medical tourism.

Medicare and Health Care Cost Impacts of Medical Tourism especially for Breast Surgery and Abdominoplasty/Body Surgery

Overseas Medical Tourism and botched surgeries a growing concern in relation to Australian health care costs and Plastic Surgery complications and revision surgery rates in Australia.

Every week, our Patient Care Coordinators get several calls from distressed overseas surgery patients. While we are very empathetic to patients having been misinformed about WHO/WHAT TYPE OF DOCTOR was going to perform their surgery overseas, and what types of procedures they ended up having performed – many botched surgery results are not necessarily correctable.  

  • These patients sought a cheaper surgery option than they believed they could attain in Australia.
  • Many overseas cosmetic surgery patients who telephone us in distress have been left with disfigurement, necrotic skin conditions and other problems due to either:
    • the wrong procedure being performed
    • the right procedure performed improperly
    • flying too soon after surgery
    • wound infections from bacterial contamination/lack of immunity to different types of bacteria not familiar in Australia
    • not having met their Surgeon until just before (or worse yet, just after) their Surgery
    • not having good communication with their Surgeon due to language differences – even with the best of language interpreters
    • lack of mutual understandings about the patient’s actual surgery goals and health conditions such as skin laxity or DVT risks

Not all patients DO have problems with Cosmetic Surgery or Plastic Surgery performed overseas. But it remains a growing concern to Australian medical boards, Health Care Budget Advisory groups/Medical Services Advisory Boards and private Health Insurance Funds.

Medical Tourism post-op surgery care, complication rates and Plastic Surgery revision needs are a concern to the Australian Government in terms of two key areas:

  •  Australian cosmetic patient safety
  • Complication rates from surgery performed overseas that is NOT to Australian standards
  • Australian plastic surgery revision rates and the psychological, physical and social health care costs and consequences of patient’s ending up with necrosis, body or facial disfigurement and other serious complications or revision requirements.

How to Avoid Botched Cosmetic Surgery: 7 Timely Tips

Other risks as described previously include:

  • Super-bug risks and bacterial wound infections or skin breakdowns that lead to serious consequences including necrosis
  • Patients flying too soon after surgery, increasing risks of DVT/blood clots and bleeding or wound disruption
  • Overseas facilities and doctors may NOT have equal or comparable training, monitoring, sterilisation, sanitation and post-operation patient care standards that our Australian Medical Surgeons insists upon; these are regulated and monitored to high standards in Australia because ensuring patient-safety is a paramount concern of Australian operating teams, hospitals and Insurance Companies (medical and personal insurance companies).

In summary of these 2018-2019 MBS criteria, definition and code changes:

The Australian Society of Plastic Surgery (ASPS) posted a brief news release indicating some Plastic Surgery items will be completely removed from the MBS list (Medicare Rebate Schedule) starting 1 November 2018.

Other surgery procedures will have stricter criteria and more detailed definitions to increase clarity of what IS – or ISN’T – covered by Medicare; likely meaning LESS patients will be eligible for coverage by either Medicare OR a Private Health Fund, even for corrective post-pregnancy surgeries such as diastasis recti repair or breast lift procedures to treat ptosis after pregnancy .


Procedures reported to be impacted by the 1 November 2018 definition and criteria changes to the Medicare Rebate Schedule (MBS) items for Plastic Surgery operations include:

Removal and Replacement of Breast Prosthesis (Breast Implants)

Estimated Patient Impact:

  • fewer patients who need removal or replacement of breast implants will meet criteria for MBS rebates or private Insurance coverage
  • higher out of pocket costs and paying for the full costs of breast revision operations, even when medically necessary, is a potential likelihood for some patients

Eyelid Surgery and Medicare

Blepharoplasty – you will need to have an independent eye specialist verify your sagging eyelids are impacting your vision (e.g. impeding your field of vision).

Estimated Patient Impact:

  • attending additional exams by other Doctors/Specialists to assess eligibility
  • more paperwork and photographic submissions may be required, including an extra GP Referral to a Specialist PLUS costs of medical visits and paperwork/reports
  • higher medical expenses to see the eye/vision specialist separately to your GP and separately to your Plastic Surgeon or Oculoplastic Surgeon
  • not being eligible if there is a marginal level of ptosis or marginal impairment to a person’s field of vision due to eyelid ptosis 
  • Patient may decide to delay eyelid surgery until eyelid ptosis impedes vision, in order to have Medicare coverage of a Blepharoplasty

Eyelids often sag unevenly – what if one eyelid meets MBS criteria but the other eyelid does not meet criteria? This may impact surgery coverage also.

Skin Reduction or Belt Lipectomy after Weight Loss or Bariatric Surgery

  • Definitions and rebate criteria for skin reduction surgery after Weight Loss, such as Abdominoplasty/Belt Lipectomy or Circumferential Abdominoplasty as well as Arm Reduction/Brachioplasty procedures, are changing.
  • Multiple procedures at one time will NOT be covered.

Estimated Patient Impact:

  • Patients with abundance skin (redundant skin folds) are likely to NOT be permitted to combine skin reduction procedures in one operation if they seek Medicare rebates and/or private Health Insurance Fund cover of hospital or surgery costs (partial rebates)
  • higher overall out-of-pocket costs to patients for these operations
  • requirement of separate operations may delay a patient in restoring natural contours after losing weight when they have many folds of redundant skin and chaffing, flapping and other excess skin fold problems



  • Only covered for individuals under the age of 18s
  • Lower rebate is likely

Estimated Patient Impact:

  • Surgery must be attained BEFORE patient reaches adult consent level (under 18)
  • Requiring parental consent
  • Costs will likely be higher overall

Other Plastic Surgery procedures impacted by 1 November 2018 changes:

Recommendations for Plastic Surgery Patients in View of Medicare Changes effective 1 November 2018

  • Stay informed – visit MBS for details and watch for news releases about Medicare Changes in Australia.
  • Call our team and ask if your Quote is going to change or if your insurance coverage is likely to be impacted (you likely need to check with your health fund as well or instead of our team, but we may be able to provide preliminary information based on news releases).

Cosmetic surgery patients will not be impacted as cosmetic surgery is not covered by Medicare or Health Insurance Funds.

Plastic Surgery that is corrective, reconstructive and/or restorative in nature, however, such as a corrective Rhinoplasty, a Breast Reduction, post-weight loss skin reduction, arm reduction/bilateral Brachioplasty and Blepharoplasty eyelid surgery when vision is impaired by eyelid skin ptosis (sagging eyelids), may still attract a Medicare rebate.

These procedures will, however, likely require additional steps and extensive paperwork and photography to prove eligibility for surgery.

Some patients may lose eligibility as they may not meet NEWLY defined condition criteria for specific operations, according to the new 1 November 2018 MBS rebate listing for 2018 and 2019.

For any Plastic Surgery patients with a corrective or restorative surgery that is currently eligible for a Medicare code/Medicare rebate and/or Health Fund Coverage, that is booked for ON or AFTER 1 November 2018, phone our offices to discuss how this may impact your price quote and out of pocket costs for your surgery procedure.

Further reading:

Private Health Insurance and Plastic Surgery: New Insurance Changes

Private Health Insurance Hospital Coverage and Plastic Surgery: Terminology

Will Medicare cover Tummy Tuck or Breast Surgery?

ASPS Media Release on Plastic Surgery and MBS Criteria and Definition changes (November 2018)



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