Cut-price surgery scheme proves a life-saver
DOCTORS who are sick of their industry’s own greed are offering heavily discounted surgeries, saving patients as much as $70,000.
Most major health funds offer a service called “Known Gap”, where you are charged a gap fee of no more than $500 above their rebate by selected doctors.
But a group of doctors led by Head of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Macquarie University Professor Anand Deva have launched a pro- gram called the Access Scheme that is actively seeking to recruit specialists to perform discounted or even gapfree surgery on low-income patients.
Under the program, doctors accept Medicare and health fund rebates for the surgery and charge patients only about $500 in gap payments for plastic surgery and up to $1000 for bariatric surgery and, in some cases, will even waive this gap fee.
More than 4000 privately insured low-income earners have applied to take part in the program and about 300 patients in NSW, Queensland and Western Australia have so far been treated. Those on the lowest incomes get the highest priority and 60 per cent of those taking part have a household income below $40,000.
However, Professor Deva said he has had trouble recruiting doctors to take part in the scheme.
“If all surgeons did at least one Access case a month it would be great — I’m doing four,” he said.
Gap payments for plastic surgery can exceed $20,000 per surgery.
“I don’t want everyone dropping their cover because of medical greed,” he said.
Jen Sheehan used to weigh 216kg but, after shedding 133kg, needed major plastic surgery to rid herself of 10kg of excess skin.
Surgeons had told the 28-year-old she would face $50,000 to $70,000 in out-of-pocket costs for a series of surgeries to make her skin fit her new 80kg body and she couldn’t afford it.
Professor Deva said it was her case that inspired him to set up the “pro bono” — in the literal “for the public good” sense — scheme.
“If I wasn’t on the Access program I wouldn’t be able to do it,” she said FOR FULL ELIGIBILITY DETAILS GO TO WWW. ACCESSPROGRAM. ORG. AU
Jen Sheehan has saved tens of thousands on the Access program. Picture: Darren Leigh Roberts