Hi. I can sympathise! I had that info overload problem myself when trying to research my own surgery.
Unfortunately, it's not easy to predict costs because all the surgeon's fees are different (and these fees generally increase over time, so old info can date a bit easily). Also, to my knowledge, there is no list of the costs for suitable private health funds. Finally, for people who travel interstate for surgery, the travel and accomm costs can be a big factor too.
Um, so I can't give you a straightforward guide on costs. But I can break down the various things required for chest surgery.
This is just my advice and others might have completely different opinions and experiences...
Private health insurance providers (for surgery in Australia)
I don't want to overload you with info (!) but here's a list of health funds that have been used by some members of FTM Australia:
For what it's worth, I used HBA Top Hospital Cover (and I also declared "transsexualism" as a pre-existing medical condition.) I've read here that some other transfolk have used NIB Basic Plus.
Many health funds have a waiting period you have to go through before making claims, so best to join up ASAP if you don't already have suitable private health cover.
Approval for surgery
I don't know where you're at with things, but surgeons usually require at least one letter of approval from a psychiatrist who has experience in treating transfolk. I notice you're from Melbourne, so you may want to check out the Southern Health Gender Dysphoria Clinic, if you're not already a client. I don't know what their current costs are though - I'm sorry.
However, to see this clinic, you first need a referral from a GP first. ZBGC's Resources Directory has details of trans-friendly GPs. (BTW, I see Dr Sven Strecker at Prahran Market Clinic and he bulk bills me. He is really great.)
It's impossible to recommend a surgeon because they're all different and every client's needs and body is different (eg larger-sized vs smaller-sized chests, aesthetic appearance might be more important to some ppl than something like nipple sensation).
Here are the surgeons I know of who offer FTM chest surgery in Australia:
Megan Hassall (Sydney)
Hugh Bartholomeusz (Brisbane and Ipswich)
Edward Van Beem (Perth)
Simon Ceber (Melbourne - he's associated with the Southern Health Gender Dysphoria Clinic. If you're with this clinic, I've heard it's also possible to request financial assistance to help with the surgery costs. Not sure if the clinic is still offering this or what the eligibility requirements are)
Peter Haertsch (Sydney).
As you can see, only two of the above surgeons have websites... and none of those websites have details of costs. But you could ring their offices to get ball park quotes. Some surgeons might insist on having consultations first before giving quotes. The really important thing to ask in terms of costs is if there's a gap fee (i.e. an amount you still have to pay the surgeon, even on top of private health cover claims).
My advice is to personally shop around in order to choose the surgeon that's most suitable for your needs. Everyone's surgery priorities and experiences are different, so a surgeon who was suitable for someone else might not be right for you (and vice versa). In person consultations are obviously best, but if travelling costs are a problem then you could ask if a consultation could be done via phone and also via emailing photos of your chest.
PS There are also surgeons overseas. The website TransBucket has a list of surgeons and it also has other info and photos of surgery results. I can't give much advice on this though because I chose a surgeon in Australia.
PPS This was a while ago - in about 2006, I think - but for what it's worth, I paid around $4167 for my surgery. I'm in Melb and had my surgery in Brisbane. This figure includes airfares for me and my partner, the surgeon's gap fee ($2100 - but I know that this has gone up since then), rental for an apartment (about $700), the anaesthetist's fee ($750), and pathology fees (about $50). However, it didn't include meals, taxi fares, private health cover, psychiatrist's fees or GP costs.