Eyelid Surgery Covered By Medicare Costs Taxpayers Millions

Taxpayers are forced to pay tens of millions of dollars for a potentially unnecessary cosmetic eyelid surgery covered by Medicare, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

The nonpartisan investigative news organization reports that the number of blepharoplasties -- lifts for patients whose droopy eyelids significantly impaired their vision -- more than tripled to 136,000 a year between 2001 and 2011. Physicians were billed $20 million for the procedure in 2001; it skyrocketed to $80 million in 2011, according to the report.

While many seniors use eyelid surgery to address a bothersome health condition, other physicians say some patients are simply going after the promise of a "more youthful appearance," CPI found.

Medicare does not typically cover cosmetic surgery, but the program makes exceptions when medical needs are involved, such as breast implants after a mastectomy. Experts worry that some are using the Medicare system to pay for elective eyelid surgery and that this type of fraud isn't being caught. As a result, taxpayers must foot the bill.

“With this kind of management malpractice, it’s little wonder that the [Medicare] program is in such dire shape,” Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) told CPI. “The federal government is essentially asking people to game the system. Every dollar we spend on cosmetic surgery that isn’t necessary is a dollar that can’t be used to shore up the program for people who need it the most.”

This isn't the first time Medicare has come under scrutiny for questionable procedures.



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