When is a Body Lift Covered by Insurance?

I understand that most of the time, body lift surgery isn't covered by medical insurance, but in certain cases it is. What are the normal criteria for having a body lift paid for by insurance?

Doctor Answers 39

Body contour procedures

Hello, and thank you for this question. We have found that in the past 10 years it is more and more difficult to get any insurance coverage for body reduction surgery. Many policies have specific explanations regarding body reduction procedures. insurance covers

Saint Petersburg Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 12 reviews

Each insurance is different in terms of qualifying for coverage


Thank you for the question.  A body lift is also referred to as a lower body lift or sometimes as a circumferential abdominoplasty.  It generally involves an incision around the waist and combines a tummy tuck in the front, thigh lift on the sides, and buttock lift in the back.  An insurance company may cover the front portion of the body lift if there are skin irritations that do not respond to conservative care, if there is excess skin that interferes with exercise, or other issues.  Each insurance company and individual is different so its often hard to know if a procedure will be covered.  You can always have your prospective plastic surgeon submit the procedure codes to your insurance company and see if they will cover it.

All the best,

Dr Remus Repta

Remus Repta, MD
Scottsdale Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 127 reviews

Insurance Coverage For Body Lifts

In the Seattle area there are very few insurance companies that will pay for body lifts.  If you are hoping to get help with insurance, first check your benefits booklet or place a call to your company to inquire. If it is a covered service, they will often give you the criteria they use.  With that information you may strategize how to get the doculmentation they require to preauthorize in your behalf.  Do not waste your time if it is not a covered benefit, no matter how compeling your reasons are. Good luck! 

Mary Lee Peters, MD
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 101 reviews

Body Lift and Insurance Coverage

A body lift is generally not covered by insurance as it is deemed cosmetic surgery.  However, a panniculectomy (removal of an apron of excess skin hanging below the waist) may be covered if you have documentation of skin rashes, infections or other problems.  Usually, insurance companies require medical documentation of these problems persisting for at least six months.  You need to check with your insurance company to find out the details.  So although a body lift is not covered by insurance, a panniculectomy may be covered in very specific situations.  A body lift can be completed at the same time as a panniculectomy, but there will be additional cosmetic fees for the surgeon's time, Operating Room and anesthesia fees.  Hope this helps.

Dr. Basu

Insurance: The exception and not the rule

Insurance companies are making their approval criteria for panniculectomies more and more stringent. Careful documentation and care from a primary cary physician are often required.  

10 years ago, almost all body contouring procedures after massive weight loss were covered by insurance. As the popularity of bariatric surgery increased, so did the requests for post-bariatric body contouring. Insurance companies took note of this and became more selective on their approval process. 

Recently, the only procedures covered by insurance are breast reduction and panniculectomy. Ironically, most patients that have undergone massive weight loss have deflated, sagging breasts, and need a lift, not a reduction. 

A panniculectomy is an "entry level" tummy-tuck. It is removal of the skin apron only. It is not considered cosmetic.

Criteria currently required (as of 2010) for insurance approval include:

  • Bariatric surgery 1 year ago or more
  • Weight loss of 100 pounds or more
  • Stable weight for a minimum of 6 months
  • Skin disorder: rash, ulcers, infections unrelieved by documented medical therapies
  • A minimum amount of breast tissue (for breast reductions) to be removed based on Body Surface Area
  • A certain amount of sagginess of the skin of the abdomen (below or at the level of the genitalia)

Insurance coverage for Body Lift

Generally speaking, insurance companies will not pay for a total body lift, but may pay for parts of it. Insurance companies will only pay for procedures they (not your doctors) have determined are "medically necessary", and often have strict criteria for each procedure to be covered. Each plan is different, but sometimes you can find requirements for coverage online depending on your carrier.

Also note that "total body lift" includes different things depending on the surgeon. A circumferential body lift typically addresses the excess skin on the front and back of the abdomen or trunk, and helps lift the lateral thigh and buttock regions in doing so. There are also procedures for medial thigh lifts and arm lifts.

Procedures that have a greater chance of being covered are panniculectomy (distinctly different from abdominoplasty) and abdominal hernia repair. If done at the same time as your body lift, sometimes these "medical" portions can be covered by insurance, with the remaining "cosmetic" costs covered by the patient.

In a standard ABDOMINOPLASTY, or tummy tuck, the overall result is a flatter and smoother abdominal contour, with removal of excess skin and lower abdominal tissue, tightening of the widened abdominal muscles, and repositioning of the belly button. This is considered a "cosmetic procedure" by all insurance companies and is not covered.

The PANNICULECTOMY is different, and only removes the overhanging "apron" of skin and tissue from below the belly button. In the strictest definition, nothing else is done and the two skin edges are closed together and the shape of the abdomen and skin is the same except that lower hanging apron is gone. Even this is not covered by insurance unless you can show them you have a medical reason to have it removed (for example repeat infections due to the overhanging skin, inability to walk because the weight of skin limits your knees, etc)

Despite all of the difficulties with insurance, the total body lift is a very gratifying procedure for both the patient and the surgeon. If cost is an issue, you can always look for board certified plastic surgeons who offer financing, or have the procedure done in more than one step. Choose a safe surgeon that you are comfortable with.

Good luck!

Anita Patel, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 12 reviews

Insurance for body lifts

Most of the time insurance does not cover body lifts.  If it is a covered benefit, insurers would typically require abdominal skin hanging below the pubic bone, severe rashes and skin infection history, and functional impairment caused by the skin.  

David Stoker, MD
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

Insurance Coverage for Body Lift Procedures

In my experience, a body lift is never covered by insurance. If deemed medically necessary, some insurance companies will cover a panniculectomy on a case by case basis, but typically never an abdominoplasty. This is great question to ask your insurance company regarding your plan's coverage.

Brian Coan, MD, FACS
Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 30 reviews

When is body lift covered by insurance?

Hello and thank you for your question. Body lift is never covered by insurance. Body lift is a cosmetic  procedure. A Panniculectomy, which is removal of excess abdominal  skin and fat is sometimes covered by insurance. Sometimes your physician  may be able to get coverage for a panniculectomy but you may want a body lift. In this  case you would pay the difference  between  the procedures.
Peter Fisher M.D. 

Peter Fisher, MD
San Antonio Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 25 reviews

Body Lift Coverage by Healthcare Insurance

In considering a body lift, costs are certainly an issue. The cost can be covered by your healthcare insurance carrier, although that is becoming increasingly rare. Every healthcare insurance carrier has their own set of specific criteria, which can be obtained by contacting them. The issue is whether you are truly suffering from medical problems related directly to the large flaps or folds of skin consequent to your weight loss. The insurance carrier will usually require documentation of these medical problems and any supporting documentation such as radiology reports, medication prescriptions, and other medical reports. In their assesments for coverage, they usually want to ensure that all conservative measures and treatment modalities, short of surgery, have been tried and have failed. Obtaining all of this documentation can be a lengthy, tedious, and frustrating process, which is sort of the point of it all. Any Board-certified plastic surgeon well versed in this process should be able to help you out. Good luck and fare well.

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.