When we first started working with lipedema patients in 2018, women frequently traveled cross country for care because there were so few surgeons treating lipedema. Five years later, long-distance travel is no longer necessary because women have many more options for surgeons close to their homes.
Traveling for Surgery is Risky
Traveling long distances for any surgery, especially by air, increases the risk of complications such as blot clots. Also, if you have a complication like infection or wound healing issues, you cannot easily visit your surgeon for follow-up treatment. To prevent these issues, you might need to spend much more time and money staying close to your surgeon before and after surgery.
Coverlipedema.com Seeks Increased Access to Care
The focus of Coverlipedema.com has always been to create access to surgeons and non-surgeons for lipedema care as close to home as possible. We are getting closer to that goal with almost twenty plastic surgeons and fifty non-surgeon diagnosing clinicians we recommend to our members. We constantly search for plastic surgeons and other clinicians to treat and diagnose lipedema.
Traveling Makes Insurance Coverage More Difficult
As more plastic surgeons become willing to treat lipedema safely and effectively, we see more marketing by those “lipedema experts” who have made so much money treating this disease for years. Their cash prices have gone up considerably as well. There is no good reason to travel to an expensive non-plastic surgeon who cannot safely provide large-volume liposuction with overnight monitoring in a licensed or accredited facility. Most of these surgeons are also out-of-network for insurance plans, making getting fully covered harder. Insurance companies will counter preauthorization requests with numerous network providers closer to the patient. It could also result in chasing insurance for months to get reimbursed and, sometimes, in surgeons excessively billing insurance in a manner that could jeopardize future coverage.
Still, Most Patients Will Have to Travel
We fully understand the realities of today. We know that most of our members will have to travel for their surgeries. However, we recommend choosing a surgeon who is closest to you. One that does not require long-distance travel. Or perhaps, one that is close to someone you can spend some time with both before and after your surgery. We make our recommendations for surgeons based on the lipedema stage and the general health of our members. The level of concern about traveling for a stage three woman with a high BMI and multiple comorbidities would be different than for a stage one woman with a normal BMI and no comorbidities.
International Travel for Lipedema Surgery
As for traveling internationally to Germany, the United Kingdom, or Mexico, many patients seek higher quality and lower costs for their surgeries. However, we do not think that this is a good approach. Plastic surgery training in the US is superior to Europe, and many European plastic surgeons actually come to the US for their training. As for lipedema, we find that most foreign surgeons use water-assisted liposuction (WAL), which is less effective for lipedema than power-assisted liposuction (PAL). Most American plastic surgeons use PAL to remove lipedema. As for cost, if insurance covers your surgery, there is no way that any foreign surgery could cost less, especially when you add travel and lodging costs. We would also be cautious about dealing with the cost of any complications, which might not be covered while you are out of the country and might not ever be covered when caused by a non-covered procedure. Beyond costs, we are concerned about the safety considerations of flying seven to thirteen hours before and especially after surgery. Of course, the distance also rules out any easy follow-up treatment of complications such as wound healing issues or infection. And while we love international travel, we would be concerned about dealing with the whole surgery process in an unfamiliar place in a language that we do not understand fluently. We have received medical treatment in a foreign country with clinicians who spoke English, and even when all went well, language and customs still created barriers to proper care.
We have been approached by international lipedema surgeons who are very excited about the opportunity to get paid much more by Americans than their local patients. There is a Facebook group that serves as a marketing site for Americans who could be convinced to travel for care. We have consistently refused to work with international surgeons because we know that fully-covered surgery is safer, more effective, and less expensive when done close to home.
In a Few Years, No One Will Have to Travel Far
There are 6,000 plastic surgeons in the United States. Not all of them want to or should treat lipedema, but we believe 100 to 600 might be doing so one day. Coverlipedema.com constantly works to increase the number of board-certified plastic surgeons treating lipedema. In a few years, no one suffering from lipedema will have to travel far for their safe, effective, and fully covered surgery.