Answer by George J. Beraka, MD
Manhattan Plastic Surgeon
80% of breast reduction questions on RealSelf are about insurance coverage. Here are some helpful points.
1) Insurance companies try very hard not to pay for breast reduction, even though they should. Even small breast reductions relieve many symptoms such as back pain and shoulder pain, and even some types of headaches.
2) Very big reductions (like from an F cup to a C cup) will usually be covered.
3) Many policies will pay for breast reduction if 500 grams (a little more than a pound) or more are removed from each breast.
4) Some policies take your height and weight into account. So that if you are tiny, smaller reductions will be covered. Find out the details of your policy.
5) DON'T get too much of a reduction just to satisfy the insurance company. You will be unhappy with tiny breasts.
6) Your surgeon needs to request pre-certification IN WRITING, and attach as much evidence as possible.
7) Evidence includes letters from your internist, orthopedic surgeon, and/or chiropractor stating that breast reduction will relieve your symptoms.
8) Some companies require that you try "alternative treatments" such as weight loss and physical therapy first.
9) Don't give up. If the first request is denied, demand an appeal.
10) If there is no insurance, and you cannot afford to pay a private surgeon, go to the plastic surgery clinic of a teaching hospital. There, residents do the surgery under supervision, and the cost is minimal. In New York City, we train residents and fellows at Lenox Hill Hospital, and they do good work.