One man’s fight to get skin removal surgery covered by health care
Ryan Loriault went from being a rotund 386 pounds (lbs) to a slender 175 in less than two years by diet and exercise alone, but there’s some weight he won’t be able to shift naturally— about 20 lbs. of saggy, excess skin.
Drapes of loose skin that have lost elasticity are common in formerly obese patients who lose massive amounts of weight in a relatively short period of time.
Although saggy skin is not part of the ideal beach body anticipated after weight loss, Loriault’s main concern is the back pain caused by the excess skin, which weighs down and pulls his body forward.
Loose skin in the stomach area can also break out in rashes, bleed, get skin ulcers and become infected. If bad enough, it can get in the way of simple everyday tasks such as bending over, walking or sitting.
This is a setback for the six-feet-tall Loriault, who aspires to become a personal trainer. With a passion for health and a positive attitude, the 30-year-old could see himself training and motivating others at the gym—if only the pillows of extra skin didn’t interfere with the physical aspects of the job, such as jumping jacks.
Like others in his position, he decided the best option would be a skin removal surgery. He looked into two procedures: Abdominoplasty (also known as a tummy tuck) — which is not covered by health care — and gynecomastia (the removal of breast tissue in males).
He makes it clear that he has no interest in getting the surgery for vanity reasons. Though he has excess skin in other areas of his body, his only desire is to remove excess skin that is causing him back problems.
“I don’t want to get [skin removal surgery] done because it looks pretty,” said Loriault. “You’re left with brutal scars [after surgery]. It’s not like I’m ever going to go out in public and take off my shirt.”
According to Loriault, who has consulted with a cosmetic surgeon, the surgeries would cost him around $25,000. After racking up debt accumulated from medical expenses associated with being morbidly obese, student loans and other expenses, he can't afford to get the procedures done.
Because these types of procedures are considered cosmetic, they are typically not covered by Medical Services Plan of BC. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, Stephen May, sent this statement by email:
“In order to maintain a sustainable public health care system, MSP only covers procedures that are medically necessary. An abdominoplasty (or 'tummy tuck') is considered to be a cosmetic procedure, and therefore not a benefit of MSP. A panniculectomy is a benefit, if medically required.”
Since abdominoplasty is not covered, Loriault's best bet is to get a panniculectomy — a procedure to remove the panniculus (the section of skin and subcutaneous tissue in the lower abdominal area).
To get the panniculectomy covered, MSP requires proof that it is medically necessary through a formal written request for payment authorization from a physician.
But the journey is an uphill trek and it hasn’t been simple.
Loriault has yet to find a plastic surgeon that will write him a letter for MSP.