Patricia Chaney

Controlling Costs: Cosmetic Surgery

Cosmetic surgeries can become expensive quickly, and navigating insurance after these kinds of procedures can force patients to swim in murky waters. But with a little guidance, your employees can compare prices and find the best, most cost-effective provider.

Understanding Cosmetic Surgery Costs

The cost of cosmetic, or aesthetic, surgery takes several factors into account. A deeply experienced surgeon might charge more, for example, as might one performing particularly complex procedures. Undergoing a cosmetic surgery in a large city could be cost more than having it done in the suburbs. And a hospital is generally the most expensive place to receive cosmetic procedures, but many cosmetic surgeries can take place — and cost less — at outpatient ambulatory surgical centers.

Surgery that’s performed for purely aesthetic reasons generally isn’t covered by insurance. More likely to be covered are medically necessary procedures or reconstructive surgeries after trauma, for instance an accident, severe burns or cancer treatment. Insurers also routinely cover surgery meant to correct an issue present at birth. And you may find that insurance will cover part of a procedure that serves both a medical and an aesthetic purpose. For example, insurance may pick up a portion of a nose reshaping if the surgery made structural changes that improved breathing.

For common procedures, you can receive an estimated price for the entire episode of care, including consultation, the actual procedure and any follow-up. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) provides averages for routine procedures to give you a basis for comparison. Rhinoplasty typically costs about $5,100, for example, while eyelid surgery averages around $3,000. Reconstructive surgery is more complex and may require a consultation to receive an accurate estimate.

How to Control the Cost of Cosmetic Surgery

First, employees should always check with their insurance to see if all or part of their procedure is covered. Get any approvals needed beforehand to help streamline the claims process. Employees can also take advantage of their health savings or flexible spending accounts to cover the costs of a surgery, as long as it’s medically necessary. They may need to obtain a letter of medical necessity to receive reimbursement or provide payment through their medical savings account, so planning ahead is key.

The next step is to shop around. Encourage employees to call different doctors and ask for a cost estimate. They should get a detailed list of what is included in that cost and what additional expenses they may face, such as charges for ice packs, prescription medications or other needs.

Before choosing a doctor, it’s a good idea to do some research and read online reviews. From there, employees should schedule consultation appointments with their top choices.
Before getting any kind of cosmetic procedure done, they should feel confident in their doctor’s qualifications, how the surgery is done and the expected recovery time. The consultation is a chance to get any questions out of the way early on. Your employees should leave the meeting knowing the answers to the following questions, as recommended by the ASPS:

  • Is the physician board-certified in plastic surgery?
  • How many of this type of procedure has the doctor performed?
  • Is it possible to view before and after photos?
  • What are the risks and benefits of this procedure?
  • What are the complication rates for this procedure?

Most plastic and reconstructive surgeries are scheduled long in advance of the actual procedure, so your employees have the opportunity to take their time searching for the most competitive provider. It’s possible to have a cosmetic surgery done without draining your bank account — all it takes is a little planning.

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