Understanding plastic surgery costs in the United States
What you pay for a plastic surgery procedure could vary considerably based on several factors, including the doctor's education, experience, expertise and even where you live.
Imagine you're living in a cozy, rural town and considering a plastic surgery procedure. You might be surprised that the quote you receive is significantly lower than what your friend, living in a bustling metropolitan area like New York or Los Angeles, was given for the same procedure.
This difference isn't just a matter of random pricing but reflects a broader reality.
Expert insights on elective surgery pricing
"Elective cosmetic surgery is different from traditional healthcare," said Kulkarni. "While you might expect healthcare services to be similarly priced across the country, elective cosmetic surgery behaves more like other services that respond to market forces like salons and restaurants."
In areas with a higher cost of living, prices for virtually all services, including plastic surgery, tend to be higher. These regions often have higher incomes, which support the cost of these services.
The principle of supply and demand also plays a crucial role. Surgeons with specific expertise often have higher fees.
"For any individual surgeon, the number of surgeries that can be performed is limited," said Kulkarni. "So, a surgeon in high demand for a particular procedure will cost more as their demand outstrips their supply."
She added that raising surgeon fees is a way to grow a plastic surgery practice financially.
"It is much safer and more effective for an individual high-demand surgeon to charge more and do a limited number of operations than it would be to expect them to grow by operating on more and more patients," said Kulkarni.
The celebrity factor in pricing
Hamilton adds another layer to this pricing puzzle – the celebrity factor.
"If you're going to someone who's more prominent, whether it's on social media or a surgeon to the stars, you can expect to be paying a premium," said Hamilton.
Yet, she adds having a celebrity surgeon is unnecessary to get an impressive outcome.
"People don't need to be famous to be excellent plastic surgeons," said Hamilton.
She added that high demand and cost don't necessarily equate to the best value or quality.
"If it's super inexpensive, that ought to raise an eyebrow," said Hamilton. "But just because you're paying a lot does not necessarily mean you're getting the best quality product."
According to Hamilton, some of the doctors who are charging the most for plastic surgery procedures are underqualified but famous on social media.
"Forget board certified, they're not even plastic surgeons, and they've just got an entertaining feed," said Hamilton. "We've all seen some examples of stuff that's gone very wrong for patients and perhaps would have been mitigated if they had gone to someone more qualified."
Choosing the right surgeon
Hamilton highlighted the importance of choosing a board-certified plastic surgeon who is a member of the ASPS.
"You have to do your research and look at the work and feel comfortable with the whole team of people – surgeon, nursing staff, front desk," said Hamilton. "Make sure that you feel cared for as a patient wherever you go."
The surgeon's fee
Be sure to ask about the total cost of surgery during your consultation. This total cost includes not just the surgeon's fee but also the facility and anesthesiologist fees as well as the cost of dressings, postsurgical garments and other fees.
ASPS compiled this list of average surgeon fees nationwide in 2022. But remember, a surgeon's fee is only one piece of the total price of plastic surgery.
Financing options for plastic surgery
Plastic surgery is most often elective surgery, so insurance rarely covers the cost of the procedure. Financing options like CareCredit have made plastic surgery more accessible to a broader range of people. CareCredit is a credit card that offers special financing options for various medical procedures, including plastic surgery. It allows patients to spread out costs over time through structured payment plans. This credit card can be a game-changer for those who find the upfront cost prohibitive but can pay for their plastic surgery procedure over time.
However, one thing to keep in mind is that medical credit cards like CareCredit have interest rates just like regular credit cards, and the interest rates may be different from a standard credit card. Medical credit cards can be an advantage to patients who choose cosmetic procedures because they are often offered a promotional period of low or no interest, though, the length of this period depends on their credit score. A patient may be able to budget appropriately to pay off the procedure during a period of low or no interest.
Additionally, some plastic surgeons also offer their own financing plans, so be sure to ask your surgeon's office if it offers financing plans as well.
Making an informed decision
Your primary focus should always be on the qualifications and experience of the surgeon when considering plastic surgery. Price should never be the sole determining factor. Remember, a higher price doesn't always mean better quality and a bargain might come with risks. Do your homework, understand the factors that influence pricing and choose a path that ensures your safety, satisfaction and the best possible outcome.
To find a qualified plastic surgeon for any cosmetic or reconstructive procedure, consult a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. All ASPS members are board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, have completed an accredited plastic surgery training program, practice in accredited facilities and follow strict standards of safety and ethics. Find an ASPS member in your area.