Excess skin removal can be a stage of weight loss you weren't expecting, but Medicare or private cover might help you pay for it.
When you've lost a lot of weight, excess skin can end up being a side effect you weren't expecting. The good news is, healthcare in Australia could help you at this stage of your weight loss journey.
Surgery can get rid of excess skin, remove fat in a few strategic places, tighten up any wonky abdominal muscles and put the final bow on the kick-ass gift of weight loss you've given yourself.
What causes loose skin?
When you lose weight, your skin will attempt to bounce back into shape due to a property called skin elasticity. If you end up with too much loose skin, it means your skin couldn't bounce back fast enough.
Maybe your skin lost some of its elasticity over time (due to age, sun exposure, being stretched for so long and other factors). Or maybe your weight loss was so rapid, even the most elastic skin couldn't keep up. It could be a little of both.
Either way, many people will end up with some amount of loose skin if they were significantly overweight before and have since shed a bunch of kilos.
What options are there for skin removal after weight loss?
You can try to minimise excess skin by losing weight gradually and giving your skin the opportunity to slowly work itself back into shape.
Lifting weights as part of your weight loss regime could also help in some cases. The new muscle mass will replace some of the lost fat mass, meaning less skin will come loose in the first place.
If that doesn't work and you end up with a lot of loose skin, here are your options if you want to have it removed:
- Tummy tuck. Removes excess skin around your abdomen and tightens the abdominal muscles. Technically called an abdominoplasty.
- Lower body lift. Removes excess fat and loose skin around the stomach, thighs, back and buttocks.
- Upper body lift. Removes the excess fat and loose skin around the chest, breasts and mid-back.
- Arm reduction. Removes excess skin and tissue around the arm, armpit and side chest.
- Thigh reduction. Removes excess skin and fat around the thighs.
- Liposuction. Removes stubborn areas of fat. Can be used together with skin reduction to help create nicer body contours.
How does skin removal surgery work?
To remove excess skin, your surgeon will make incisions into the area where the excess skin is located, lift the skin from the underlying tissue, trim it off, reposition the navel if necessary and stitch up the wound.
If liposuction is required, the process is the same except they'll remove the excess fat before trimming away the skin. They do this by hollowing out little spaces within the fatty tissue. After they trim the skin and stitch the wound, they'll give you a compression garment that will collapse these hollowed-out spaces to create a contoured body shape.
In the case of a tummy tuck, the process is again the same, but your surgeon will stitch together any loose or separated abdominal muscles prior to removing the fat.
Is excess skin removal covered by Medicare?
Medicare will cover your skin removal but only if it considers it medically-necessary. To get approved, you need to meet all of the following conditions:
- Your BMI has dropped at least five points.
- Your weight has been stable for six months prior to the surgery.
- You've developed a secondary skin condition that threatens the health of your skin and has failed other forms of treatment.
- The excess skin interferes with daily living.
Is excess skin removal covered by private health insurance?
Yes, you can get cover for medically-necessary skin removal through private health insurance too. The benefits of going through private health insurance are the following:
- You won't have to wait as long for treatment. Your wait times in the public system will probably be quite long since excess skin-removal isn't a life-threatening emergency. With private cover, you can usually get in much sooner.
- You can choose your surgeon. When you're having your skin removed and your body contoured, you want to make sure you can choose a surgeon with a good track record of results. In the public system, you have to go with whoever they give you.
- You get your own room. Many public hospitals use shared rooms. You can avoid this and enjoy the privacy of your own room by using private health cover.
To have your excess skin removal covered through private insurance, you'll have to meet the following criteria:
- Your condition must meet Medicare's definition of "medically necessary" skin removal as mentioned above. Medicare is heavily involved in all eligible hospital treatments, both public and private. Your insurer ultimately won't approve anything that isn't approved by Medicare first.
- Your policy needs to list medically-necessary cosmetic surgery as a covered treatment. Not all policies include cover for this treatment. If they do it will be called something like medically necessary cosmetic surgery or reconstructive surgery. You can find it on basic policies all the way up to comprehensive ones.
- You've served your waiting periods. If you buy a new policy, you'll have to wait a period of time before you can claim for certain treatments. For excess skin removal, your wait will most likely be 12 months since excess skin will usually be considered a pre-existing condition.
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