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Bill would require insurance companies to cover plastic surgery costs for abuse victims

Plastic surgery is not only purely cosmetic: covering the cost of plastic surgery for victims of abuse has become necessary

plastic surgery, abuse victims

Photo by Anton on Unsplash

Insurance companies aren’t exactly known for their generosity when it comes to “gray area” insurance claims, but there’s one category of medical treatment in which they definitely fall short, according to some experts. That would be covering the cost of plastic surgery for victims of abuse, which has recently become unnecessarily controversial.

While many plastic surgeries are elective procedures, some of them are medically necessary. For example, someone may need a rhinoplasty to correct a misshapen nose that was broken during an abusive episode. That same procedure could be used to correct a deviated septum, which can interfere with breathing and even contribute to jaw misalignment. The point is, plastic surgery isn’t always about vanity – and insurance companies need to acknowledge that in their coverage plans.

What would the bill mean for insurance companies?

The proposed bill would only apply to insurance companies in the state of Illinois. If it’s passed, though, it could have ripple effects in other states as advocates see what’s possible with the right impetus and coordination. Currently, when victims of abuse file insurance claims for plastic surgeries that directly address their injuries, the insurance company considers those claims on a case-by-case basis – and usually denies them. This includes people who need to get scars repaired, those who’ve had bones in their faces broken and need corrective surgery by a plastic surgeon, and people who’ve been burned and require plastic surgery to correct the scarring.

If it gets passed, the proposed bill would require insurance companies in Illinois to provide full coverage for any cosmetic procedure that’s meant to address injuries related to physical abuse, as long as it’s approved by a licensed doctor.

What would the bill mean for abuse victims who need plastic surgery?

In many cases, this is an issue of mental as well as physical healing. If someone has to spend the rest of their life seeing the evidence left by an abuser in the form of scars or other unwanted physical changes, it’ll be that much harder for them to leave that part of their life in the past. Receiving corrective plastic surgery, however, is an outward sign that they’re moving past whatever incident made the surgery necessary in the first place.

Where did the bill originate?

The bill was proposed by medical students associated with the Illinois State Medical Society (ISMS), and has the support of the ISMS as well. At the moment, the bill has yet to pass in the Illinois House and Senate; with any luck, it’ll make its way to the Governor’s desk and be signed into law.

What are some other examples of medically necessary plastic surgeries?

While the majority of plastic surgery isn’t exactly done for health reasons, some of it is actually medically necessary. It may not be a matter of life or death, but it can be crucial in improving someone’s quality of life. In fact, some procedures are only used for this purpose. Let’s take a look at some examples below.


Also known as an eye lift, this procedure is often used to reduce the appearance of aging by removing excess skin around eye; this results in more toned, tightened skin both above and below the eye. In some cases, though, people have so much excess skin above the eye that it interferes with their vision; a blepharoplasty can then be used to correct the problem.

Breast reconstruction

If a woman has had one or both breasts removed due to cancer (in a procedure known as a mastectomy), she may feel like part of her femininity has been lost. A breast reconstruction can rebuild the missing tissue and restore her bust to the shape she’s used to, usually with the help of implants. Similar to the situation with abuse victims and plastic surgery, this procedure can help breast cancer survivors feel like they’re truly survivors of the illness, not just victims.

Breast reduction

Whether it’s because of genetics, hormones, or some other reason, some women have breasts that are simply too large for them to carry comfortably. The issue will inevitably cause back problems, as well as pain in the neck and shoulders. It can also be a blow to a woman’s self-esteem, as she feels like there’s something wrong with her appearance compared to other women. A breast reduction can easily solve both physical and psychological issues.

Deviated septum correction

While this would technically fall under the umbrella of a rhinoplasty, correcting a deviated septum addresses much different issues. A deviated septum may cause excessive snoring, constant sinus infections, and difficulty breathing through the nose. If someone with a deviated septum defaults to breathing through their mouth instead of their nose, they might also end up with jaw pain or dental issues due to misalignment or teeth grinding. There’s also often a cosmetic aspect to this procedure, just to make sure everything looks good post-surgery.

Reconstructive surgery

This type of procedure is always cosmetic in nature, but it can also be medically necessary in order for the body to function well. In the case of abuse victims, it can be a critical part of the healing process. Reconstructive surgery could be used to minimize the appearance of scars from an injury, to graft skin after a severe burn, or even to reconstruct bones if they’ve been crushed or moved out of place due to a traumatic injury.

Craniofacial surgery

As a sub-specialization of plastic surgery, this type of procedure is used to help children who are born with cleft lips or palettes. These conditions can hamper the way a child eats and speaks, and can also make them vulnerable to bullying later in life. After craniofacial surgery, though, many recipients can live totally normal lives.

The takeaway

The idea that plastic surgery is purely for cosmetic purposes is based on stereotypes, not on facts. If insurance companies are going to serve their policy holders well, they need to include any plastic surgery procedures that are necessary to help abuse victims recover, both physically and psychologically.

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