Medical Tourism: What You Need to Know

Each year, thousands of Australians board planes to have cosmetic enhancement procedures performed in other countries – the most prominent of which is Thailand.

For those wanting tummy tucks, liposuction or breast augmentation, the benefits of medical tourism seem blatantly obvious. Who wouldn’t want pay up to 30-40 percent less than they’d pay in Australia while sipping a cocktail by the pool?

But there’s more to the story. When taking a closer look at medical tourism, many realise that the benefits associated with it are greatly outweighed by the risks.

In this post, we will explore medical tourism with a strong focus on cosmetic enhancement to ascertain what it is, why people do it and the risks taken when having procedures performed overseas.

What is Medical tourism?

In 2015, medical tourism has become synonymous with people from highly developed countries seeking ‘a cheap deal’ overseas. Traditionally, the term was applied to people from less developed countries seeking higher quality medical treatment.

People may also choose to participate in medical tourism if a certain procedure is illegal in their home country or if they have a specific condition that is better understood elsewhere.

Despite its growing popularity, medical tourism is nothing new. Ancient Greeks used to travel to the Saronic Gulf, which was believed to be the sanctuary of Asklepios, the God of healing.

The earliest recorded form of modern medical tourism was the spa towns and sanatoriums of 18th century England. People traveled to these places to treat conditions like gout, liver disorders, and bronchitis.

Why is medical tourism appealing?

 Cosmetic Surgery Tourism Statistics
source: My Med Holiday

According to the University of Leeds, people who opt for medical tourism are generally ‘ordinary people on modest incomes’. Their decision to have surgery is not a snap decision either. They have been thinking about it, on average, for 5-10 years.

While some people think it is merely an exercise in vanity, most people who have procedures performed just want to look or feel “normal.”

Therefore, it is not surprising that breast augmentation seems to be the most popular procedure abroad. When you factor in that this procedure can cost $8,000 in Australia and less than $4,000 in Thailand, it is no wonder that people are flocking overseas.

Medical Tourism- it’s no holiday

If you were hoping this article would support the idea of pursuing cosmetic surgery abroad – sorry to burst your bubble.  However, keep reading because there are a few things you should consider before making a decision.

1. Increased risks

Medical tourism breast augmentation mistake

source: Wikipedia

By having any medical procedure performed in a less developed nation, you are increasing the risks to your health. Tropical environments such as Thailand are prone to infection, particularly if rigorous hygiene is not maintained.

What’s more, many hospitals do not have an Emergency Room onsite, so if there is an emergency during the procedure, the hospital may not be adequately equipped to deal with it.

The risks are not only isolated to the hospital. There is an increased risk of post-operative deep vein thrombosis during the flight home, which can be life-threatening.

One Perth woman who had a breast augmentation in Thailand was infected with a Thailand-based superbug during surgery; causing her to spend 7 months in hospital to regain her health. She is still dealing with emotional distress and health complications 4 years later.

2. Unfamiliarity

It might seem obvious, but it’s important to keep in mind that other countries may have a different language, laws, and culture to your own.

With any medical procedure, communication is paramount in any doctor-patient relationship. When communicating in the surgeon’s second language, there is potential for misunderstanding in terms of desired treatment.

In Australia, many people take surgeons’ expertise for granted.   We have very strict laws on accreditation that are not practiced in other countries. Therefore, even though procedures abroad may be a fraction of the cost, they might not be performed with the same standardisation.

Thailand is renowned for having a lack of medical regulation. Perhaps if it had more medical regulation, a 24-year-old British woman would still be alive today.

If something goes wrong, it can be very difficult to know your rights and whether a surgeon will accept liability of mishaps when you are far from the familiarity of home.

3. Skipping steps to cut costs

One of the main differences in the procedure is the process, which is significantly shorter overseas.

Why is this a problem? A consultation 3 days prior to surgery in South-East Asia is typically not long enough to build a relationship of trust and understanding between the surgeon and patient.

Surgeon in operating room

In Australia, the majority of the process occurs post-operative, with follow-ups occurring for roughly 12 months after the procedure. This ensures that there is nothing amiss and that the patient’s health has not been compromised.

The biggest complications to any cosmetic enhancement occur after surgery and the fact that there are generally no follow-ups in other countries borders on negligence. In a study conducted by the University of Leeds, researchers found that “Most [patients] needed stitches replacing/ removing, infections treating with antibiotics, or seromas draining” after cosmetic surgery in Thailand.

4. Benefits now = costs later

Surgery is risky regardless of where it is performed. Even in Australia, where medical training is first class and regulations are stringent, things can go wrong. It is important that the surgeon and patient are located in the same place in case any pain, distress or complications arise. They are, after all, the best person to treat you.

As medical tourism increases, so too do the incidents of people returning home with problems associated with surgery. This is supported by a study by the University of Leeds, which found that “16.5% of our patients experienced complications from their surgeries. 8.7% received further treatment in the NHS or Medicare upon returning home.”

Having corrective surgery back home adds significantly to medical bills – so the original benefits (lower surgery costs) may be negated by paying more later.

5. Holiday activities are restricted during recovery

If the added bonus of a holiday after cosmetic enhancement is what you want, think again. Those who have had surgery before know that the recovery period is often quite painful. Many things that people enjoy on their getaways (drinking alcohol, swimming, sunbaking, etc.) are very much on the restricted list.


There is a discernible difference in the quality of cosmetic enhancement at home and abroad, leading one to believe that even though medical tourism is often cheaper, it is not as good and poses increased risks.

Every procedure has risks, but these risks can be limited by having the surgery performed in a familiar environment by a trusted, board-certified doctor. If you are in the Perth or Cairns region and are considering a breast augmentation, please contact Dr Robert Goldman’s team.

Dr Goldman is an experienced and skilled cosmetic surgeon who will give the best possible results by providing the highest level of care and on-going support.

Financing Your Cosmetic Surgery

There is a broad range of options and procedures available to individuals in Australia but any medical procedure is a serious undertaking.

The difference between plastic surgery & cosmetic surgery

This is important because some health insurers MAY provide full cover for all costs associated with your hospital admission for reconstructive plastic surgery but not for cosmetic surgery.

Plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery are closely aligned in required technique and skill. Plastic surgery is the reconstruction of facial and body defects due to birth disorders, trauma, burns, and disease and includes cosmetic surgery. Cosmetic Surgery is requested by the patient and is thus a matter of personal choice aimed at enhancing and improving the patient’s appearance.

Financing your cosmetic surgery

Supercare Fiannce for Cosmetic Surgery

Access Superannuation for Plastic Surgery

Introducing SuperCare

Can I access Superannuation funds early to pay for Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery? Yes, you can.

SuperCare assists with the application process to fund among other things, Cosmetic  Surgery via the Early Release of Superannuation. Based on the Australian Government Initiative, you can access your superannuation fund early to cover the costs of cosmetic and plastic surgery.

SuperCare can facilitate your application for funding with many surgery procedures including reconstructive surgery to correct or repair defects and deformities following trauma, skin cancer, accidents, excision, burns, and scars. Plastic surgery is directed and indicated by the surgeon.

Plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery are closely interwoven in technique and skill. Cosmetic Surgery is aimed at enhancing and improving the patient’s appearance. The best cosmetic surgery should be undetectable by others and should provide an increased sense of wellbeing and confidence in the patient.

Cosmetic surgery is unlike other surgery in that it is requested by the patient and as such is a matter of personal choice.

Surgeries may include:

Please contact SuperCare before taking your first steps at

Cosmetic surgery health insurance

Private Health Insurance

Health funds are under more pressure to pay out fewer rebates on cosmetic and plastic surgeries and to charge higher fees; Medicare does not cover most cosmetic surgery procedures.

Those individuals who carry costly health insurance are shocked to find that they are only covered if the surgery is medically necessary to maintain your health. Medically necessary procedures such as these may be covered:

  • Breast prostheses implants after breast cancer
  • Breast cancer removal surgery
  • Skin grafts
  • Liposuction in the case of obesity or morbid obesity

Elective cosmetic surgeries such as these may not be covered or may not be fully covered:

There are different types of cover that offer different benefits. Check with your health fund to be sure of exactly what you are covered for.

Superannuation Early Access

In most cases, Australians cannot unlock their Super until they reach “preservation age” which is between 55 and 60, depending on birth date.

There is, however, a particular government process to follow to access their Superannuation Funds to pay for their life-changing surgery. The Department of Human Services (DHS) can allow early access on “compassionate grounds.”

The SIS Regulations 1994, Reg 6.19A allow advanced release of superannuation on compassionate grounds where:

  • Finance is required to pay for medical treatment for the individual
  • Based on the certification of two medical practitioners, the medical treatment is necessary to treat a life-threatening illness or injury; or to alleviate acute, or chronic, pain; or alleviate an acute, or chronic, mental disturbance
  • The treatment is not readily available to the individual through the public health system
  • The individual does not have the financial capacity to meet the expense of the treatment

This is often a drawn-out and arduous process for the regular individual with substantial amounts of paperwork and correspondence required.

Australian-based SuperCare provides specialist assistance to individuals and their families by facilitating their application to the DHS, who can provide an approval letter to release funds from your superannuation.

Why finance here in Australia and not overseas

Some Australians opt to go abroad where cosmetic procedures are cheaper, exposing themselves to some serious surgery risks. Procedures in other countries may not be as hygienic or safe, seek professional advice to understand the risks involved before you go overseas for major surgery.

*Disclaimer: Information about finance on our website is for general information purposes only. Before acting on finance for your surgery, consider its appropriateness to your individual situation. The information on this website is no substitute for financial advice.

Dr Robert Goldman is a registered and participating doctor with SuperCare. Want to know more about your options for financing your cosmetic surgery? Book a consultation with Dr Goldman to discuss the financing options available to you.

What You Need to Know About Health Insurance and Cosmetic Surgery

Cosmetic surgery is often associated with facial alterations, boob jobs and other elective and appearance-based procedures.

But what most people don’t know is that there is a huge range of cosmetic treatments and operations that can be considered completely medically necessary.

Medically necessary procedures can be covered by your private health insurance, so when the time comes to fund your cosmetic surgery, it’s really important to understand the distinction between necessary and elective procedures. Here’s how:

Figure out which one’s which

Much of the distinction between whether something is necessary or elective comes down to whether it’s deemed to be medically necessary by a professional.

Reconstructive plastic surgery is typically used to correct a range of abnormalities, whether they’re congenital or acquired, or to repair trauma damage that has occurred as the result of an accident.

At the end of the day, if a doctor or specialist formally recommends surgery, there is a high chance that it will be recognised by your health insurance provider – or at the least, Medicare – as something that warrants a rebate.

health insurance

Know what you can claim back

There are a few kinds of procedures that a comprehensive private health insurance policy should typically provide cover for (depending on the level of cover you opt for):

  • Surgeries for congenital abnormalities (conditions that exist at or before birth).
  • Reconstructive surgery following an extreme burn.
  • Surgeries for traumatic injuries.
  • The removal of cancers or tumours (or surgeries that follow the removal of cancers or tumours, such as a post-mastectomy reconstruction).
  • Procedures that repair scars or skin lacerations.

Get the best value from your health insurance

Don’t be so quick to exclude or restrict plastic surgery from your policy. While in the short term it may help you to save money on your premiums, you can never predict whether you might need surgery in the future.

It’s also a good idea to remember the distinction between reconstructive plastic surgery and elective cosmetic surgery when reviewing your policy. Some people find it easy to get confused and will accidentally remove reconstructive procedures from their cover.

If you’re looking into taking out a higher level of cover, compare health insurance policies for cosmetic surgery online to make sure you’re getting the best value for your money.

Know your options

There are three main private health insurance options for plastic and reconstructive surgery. You can:

  • Take out a comprehensive policy that covers reconstructive plastic surgery.
  • Choose a policy that offers restrictive cover for reconstructive plastic surgery in order to lower your premiums.
  • Choose a policy that excludes cover for reconstructive plastic surgery altogether.

What you choose is completely up to you. If you’re unsure of where to seek advice, have a look at the Ombudsman’s website.

Bessie Hassan

Written by Bessie Hassan

Bessie Hassan is’s resident Insurance Expert.






Breast Lifts: The Complete Guide

For many women whose bodies have deteriorated due to a number of factors, breast lifts are a great way to modify chest size, contour, and elevation.

This operation is also known as a “mastopexy” and is a rapidly increasing field of cosmetic surgery.

So what is a breast lift? Well, the main goal of this surgery is to reposition the breast and nipples in order to restore their natural look. This procedure may also involve removing excess skin, tightening the tissue and giving breasts a better shape.

The decision to undergo cosmetic surgery is not an easy one. In this blog, we will explore mastopexy, including facts, reasons to have the procedure, and common misconceptions about the operation.

Why get a breast lift?

In the article “The Truth about Breast Lifts”, plastic surgery professor Christina Y. Ahn notes that the reason that many people opt for the procedure is simply to get back what has been lost over time.

“Patients say, ‘I want my own breasts back,’” claims Ahn.

During her lifespan, a woman can experience changes in her breasts cause feelings of dissatisfaction. This can be due to significant weight loss, pregnancy, breastfeeding, heredity, or simply descending with age or the effects of gravity.

A breast lift is designed to elevate the breasts to a more youthful position, therefore reversing these changes.

What you should know

Increase in confidence

Breast lifts do not merely address one single requirement, but rather a collection of conditions associated with self-image. Patients that undergo a  mastopexy can benefit physically, aesthetically and mentally from the procedure.

A breast lift can be exceptionally rewarding for women who have lost their confidence. Improved breast shape and positioning can really help them feel better about their bodies and increase their self-esteem.

Rise in popularity

Breast lifts are becoming increasingly popular with many women. According to a report from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the rate of breast lifts has increased by 70 percent between the years 2000 and 2014 [source], indicating that the benefits of mastopexy seem to be appreciated by a number of women.

Getting a breast lift

Breast Lift Diagram
Source: Breast Lift 4 You

Before the breast lift, patients will meet with Dr Goldman for a pre-operation consultation. During this visit, or another pre-surgery appointment, the surgeon and patient will determine the end nipple position. A series of measurements are taken and the breasts are marked out and mapped to determine what region of the breast is to be removed and moved up to the new position.

They will then escort the patient into the operating room, which may be a hospital or day surgery centre. The patient then will meet the team, which will consist of nursing staff and anaesthesiologist and be given a general anaesthetic or sedative.

The surgery itself only takes about 4 hours. As well as removing excess tissue, the surgeon will use existing breast tissue to reposition the nipples.

Some patients choose to add implants during the breast lift surgery to add volume and roundness.

Back pain and posture

In the article Breast Reduction & Breast Lift 13 Things I Wish I’d Known Before My Surgeries, the author states, “I wish I would have known how wonderful I was going to feel after this surgery. If I had, I would have done this years ago.”

As well as a reduction in back, neck and shoulder pain, she reports an increased sense of confidence because of how perky her breasts were. Her husband also noticed a positive change in her posture.

After the breast lift

After surgery, patients often experience discomfort, swelling and bruising. This typically last for a few weeks, though the surgeon will make suggestions to expedite the recovery period.  Post-surgery pain reduction typically includes prescribed pain medication or a surgical bra.

To facilitate the healing process, it is important to rest as much as possible, although most patients return to work and are able to do light activities after the first week. It is crucial to avoid heavy lifting for two months following surgery in order to avoid disrupting the healing process.

Breast Lift misconceptions

There is a wide array of misunderstanding that surrounds breast lifts. It is time to clear some of these up.

Breast lifts work better with implants

surgeon holding breast implants

While overall outcomes of a breast lift may improve when combined with implants, it is not necessary in every instance.  Many patients can get excellent results just from a lift. It is best to discuss individual cases with a plastic surgeon.

Breast lifts will increase breast size

Breasts will not increase in size after a lift. They may appear to be larger, but that will be due to improved shape and positioning. While the quantity of breast tissue does not increase, the quality does. The addition of implants will increase the size if desired.

Permanent scarring post-treatment

No one wants unsightly scars, so it is understandable that this point can be of concern to those considering mastopexy. For the first few months after surgery, the breast lift scars can be very noticeable, often appearing very red and lumpy. But don’t worry– over time, scars will fade. There are some treatment options to reduce scar appearance.

Fortunately, scarring is easily hidden beneath clothing, undergarments, or swimwear. The trade-off is younger, firmer looking breasts, which is why the vast majority of women are happy with the result of the procedure.

Breast lifts permanently fix breasts

While breast lift surgery doesn’t delay natural processes and aging, most patients obtain very long lasting results thanks to new surgery techniques


During their lives, women’s breasts will change. Changes can occur from pregnancy, weight change, age or gravity. These changes are completely natural. For some women, breast changes can have an impact on confidence.

Having a breast lift can improve breast shape, projection, and symmetry, as well as give breasts a more youthful appearance. As a result, those who undergo breast lifts look and feel better in and out of clothes.

At the end of the day, whether to get a breast lift or not is completely up to the patient.

Interested in getting a breast lift or simply need more information regarding the procedure? Contact Dr Robert Goldman for an obligation free consultation.