Medicare Spends Millions on Eyelid Lifts

August 13, 2013

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. lift [lift] (n.) – (in medicine) a surgical process done to improve the appearance or function of a body part (such as face lift, nose lift, etc.)
Example: People nowadays are increasingly turning to face lifts in order to look younger.

2. cover [KUHV-er] (v.) – to pay for something
Example: Jenny had enough money to cover the medical costs.

3. therapeutic [ther-uh-PYOO-tik] (adj.) – can cure or treat an illness or disease
Example: Vince needs to undergo a therapeutic procedure to cure his liver disease.

4. leniency [LEE-nee-uhn-see, LEEN-yuhn-] (n.) – the condition of allowing a lot of freedom without being strict
Example: The clinic shows leniency towards its patients by allowing them to pay fees at a later time.

5. bill [bil] (v.) – to send someone a statement of money owed for any consumed goods or services
Example: The surgeon billed $700 to Alfred’s insurance company for his medical treatment.


Read the text below.
A report by the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) shows that the number of eyelid lifts paid for by Medicare has more than tripled over a 10-year period.

Medicare is a federal health insurance program funded by the US taxpayers. According to the report, the insurance program covered eyelid lift costs amounting to $80 million in 2011. In 2001, the amount had only been $20 million.

The rules of Medicare state that the insurance program does not pay for cosmetic surgery. However, the program covers surgeries undertaken for therapeutic purposes, which may also unintentionally be cosmetic in nature.

Eyelid lifts can improve a person's field of vision by removing skin and fat around the eyes. Elderly people usually experience the problem of drooping or loose eyelids, although some people with a certain disease might also have this condition.

However, the excessive increase in the number of eyelid lifts has raised eyebrows among some people. Some people are questioning whether Medicare is strict enough in determining whether an eyelid surgery should be covered or not.

In interviews conducted by the CPI, some doctors admitted that some patients had pressured them in asking Medicare to cover the surgery. On the other hand, some doctors claimed to have conducted the procedure mainly for therapeutic purposes.

Senator Tom Coburn from Oklahoma says that Medicare's leniency allows people to take advantage of the program, resulting in the health insurance program’s bad condition. Each eyelid lift procedure bills Medicare from $574 to $640. Among all the states in the US, Florida has one of the highest numbers of eyelid lifts, with 2,200 performed surgeries that cost about $800,000 in only a year.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         How do you think taxpayers will react upon knowing that their taxes pay for other people’s cosmetic surgeries?
·         How can we prevent people from taking advantage of the health insurance system?

Discussion B

·         What are the advantages and disadvantages of cosmetic surgery? Please explain your answer.
·         Would you ever consider having cosmetic surgery? Why or why not?


August 13, 2013