Cut-price surgery scheme proves a life-saver

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - SUE DUN­LEVY

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

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