Having just performed a blepharoplasty (eyelift surgery) yesterday, I was surprised to find out that Medicare actually pays for the surgery in some instances. The patient yesterday was having her operation done for purely cosmetic reasons and wasn’t over the age of 65, so Medicare wasn’t involved in this particular case. But it turns out that Medicare covers blepharoplasty when an elderly patient’s eyelids droop so much that it actually impairs their vision.
It turns out that blepharoplasty coverage by Medicare has been on a rapid rise in the past few years, prompting the question of how many of those procedures were truly done for “functional” purposes and how many were actually cosmetic procedures that slid under the Medicare radar.
Why does it matter? Well for one thing, taxpayers are paying for it – to the tune of $80 million in 2011. Now, that’s basically a drop in the bucket of Medicare’s budget, But as the Obama administration and Congress wrestle over how to restrain Medicare’s growing pricetag, perhaps a little bit more attention needs to be paid to rapidly proliferating procedures like blepharoplasty to make sure taxpayers are not getting ripped off. Because it begs the question, if physicians are gaming the system on blepharoplasties, what else is Medicare paying for that it shouldn’t be?