Breast implants were not designed to be permanent medical devices. If you have implants, you will likely need to have them removed at some point, regardless of whether you choose to have them replaced or not, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. There is no guarantee that your insurance company will cover the cost of removing breast implants.
Approximately 20 percent of women who had breast augmentation surgery had their breast implants removed within 10 years, according to the FDA. Some chose to have their implants replaced, while others did not. Some of the common reasons for having breast implants removed included such complications as implant rupture, implant deflation, pain, infection, wrinkling, breast asymmetry and capsular contraction, which is a hardening of the tissue around the breast implant.
Your insurance company typically only pays for surgical procedures which it deems as medically necessary. Cosmetic breast augmentation surgery, which includes removing implants as well as the original insert procedure, is usually considered an elective procedure. Since elective procedures are not medically necessary, most insurance companies won't cover the cost of removing or replacing your implants.
Not all breast augmentation surgery is performed strictly for cosmetic purposes. Breast reconstruction surgery attempts to restore the breast to its natural appearance following a severe trauma, injury or surgery including mastectomy for the treatment of breast cancer. In some cases when only one breast is affected, both breasts might need augmentation to achieve the desired symmetry. Most insurance companies consider breast augmentation that is part of breast reconstruction surgery to be a medically necessary procedure that is a covered benefit. If the original implant surgery was considered medically necessary, the removal of the implants is usually also covered if complications, such as an infection or implant rupture, are present.
Medically Necessary vs. Unnecessary
If your breast implant extrudes through the skin or if the implant is complicated by recurring infections, your insurance company will likely consider removal of the implant to be medically necessary, regardless of whether the initial implantation procedure was reconstructive or cosmetic in nature. If you have your breast implants removed because you're worried they might cause breast cancer or auto-immune disease, you're probably on your own to pay that bill. Since there is no evidence linking silicone-filled implants to breast cancer, connective tissue diseases or impaired reproduction, insurance companies do not consider having your implants removed as a preventative measure to be medically necessary.
- Aetna: Clinical Policy Bulletin: Breast Implant Removal
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Risks of Breast Implants
- Cleveland Clinic: Breast Augmentation
- American Society of Plastic Surgeons: Breast Augmentation Costs
- Group Health: Breast Implant Removal and Re-Implantation
- American Society of Plastic Surgeons: 14.6 Million Cosmetic Plastic Surgery Procedures Performed in 2012
- American Society of Plastic Surgeons: How Much Will Breast Reconstruction surgery Cost?
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Silicone Gel-Filled Breast Implants
Mike Parker is a full-time writer, publisher and independent businessman. His background includes a career as an investments broker with such NYSE member firms as Edward Jones & Company, AG Edwards & Sons and Dean Witter. He helped launch DiscoverCard as one of the company's first merchant sales reps.