Super for Surgery
Aussies requesting early access to their retirement funds to help pay for Weight Loss Surgery
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Note that NOT all Super Funds allow early withdrawal of Super for Surgery, even on compassionate reasons or for life-saving treatments for Obesity.
The Current Affair Segment
- Weight loss surgery can be an effective treatment for chronic obesity; it can reduce food costs and health care costs and may even save lives
- Two common approaches are Gastric Sleeve Surgery and Gastric Banding
- Increasing Obesity rates has resulted in a number of Australians requesting early withdrawal of Super Funds at increasing rates, with one clinic seeing a five-fold increase in funding requests for Weight Loss Surgery since 2010.
- Joanna Metzikis, an individual featured in the video segment on Channel 9, used early withdrawal of her Super Fund to pay for weight loss surgery.
- Joanna said she “couldn’t put a price” on how it had improved her life.
- Ms Metzikis had battled morbid obesity since her teens. By the time she turned 30, she was also battling high blood pressure and lower back pain problems.
- Unable to afford Gastric Sleeve Surgery, she withdrew half her super – a total of $25,000 – to help cover the cost. (Medicare does not currently pay for weight loss surgery).
- “I made a decision I didn’t want to wait, and that was the quickest and best way for me,” she told A Current Affair.
- “I just thought that I want to live to be able to use that money, and I might not if I don’t do it now.”
Here’s the synopsis of the story as excerpted from the featured video interviews, including Channel 9’s video interview of Weight Loss Surgeon, Dr Arun Dhir, from Melbourne Gastro Surgery.
- Ms Metzikis weighed in at 128kg before she had weight loss surgery.
- Since having Bariatric Surgery, her weight has dropped as low as 73 kg.
- Bariatric surgeon and Melbourne Gastro Surgery director, Dr Arun Dhir, was interviewed for the segment about the increase in patients using Super for Surgery.
- Dr Arun Dhir noted that the percentage of patients he had seen using early withdrawal of Super to pay for weight loss surgery had leaped from seven percent in 2010 to approximately 35 percent in 2016-17.
- He indicated that although obesity is a chronic condition costing millions of dollars in lost productivity and health care costs, including medications to treat obesity-related illnesses, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and increased cancer and stroke risks, currently patients are left to fund their OWN weight loss surgery procedures.
- Dr Arun Dhir said patients considering weight loss surgery needed to show a good understanding of the risks involved, and demonstrate commitment to lifelong changes before the operation proceeded.
- Recently, his clinic had a 65-year-old morbidly obese woman come in seeking weight loss surgery, with $500,000 in her super fund.
- “I say that there is no use of superannuation to a dead person,” he said.
- “People want to enjoy a superior quality of life now, rather than after 65.”
- With clinics around the country marketing their super-funded services, one expert has warned against the practice.
- Financial Planning Institute of Australia head of policy and government relations Ben Sharman said taking even a small amount out of your super could have a massive impact on your retirement.
- “For someone in their 40s, for every $10,000 they need to access, they’re reducing their retirement benefits by $42,000,” he said.
- “And for someone in their 30s and looking at 40 years until retirement, $10,000 will decrease by $180,000.”
- More than 15,000 Australians drew down more than $200 million in superannuation to fund medical procedures in the past year.
Excerpted from an article on Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2018