Why Does Plastic Surgery Cost So Much?

The Fees Involved in Plastic Surgery Pricing

Who doesn’t like a good bargain? But when it comes to your body, should a person really be concerned about the lowest price or getting the best deal? When considering plastic surgery, for some patients, it does simply come down to cost. However, as the saying goes, you may get what you pay for. Plastic surgeons often find themselves dealing with patients who want to haggle when it comes to their surgery costs.

This is interesting as these same patients wouldn’t consider trying to cut a deal with their dentist, obstetrician gynecologist, Starbucks barista, or the salesperson at the Louis Vuitton store for their goods or services.

Many patients are often shocked when they are given a quote for their procedure of choice. They may see a certain price in an advertisement, and then often feel blindsided by additional costs. Just what are these additional costs and are they necessary? Plastic surgery costs are normally divided into three categories:

  • Surgical fee
  • Anesthesia Fee
  • Facility Fee
The Surgical Fee

The surgical fee is the price the surgeon sets for her/his services. This is the surgeon’s take-home pay. This fee is determined by the surgeon. While the fee may appear high or inflated at first glance, it is normally quite reasonable when a person considers two things: 1) What it takes to acquire the skills to become a plastic surgeon and 2) What it takes to maintain the ability to practice in the field of plastic surgery.

Consider the following:

  • Education: Plastic surgeons must complete four years of college, four years of medical school, and six or more years of surgical training in a residency or fellowship. Many doctors have had to take out hefty loans to pay for school.
  • Malpractice Insurance: Plastic surgeons must maintain malpractice insurance. According to a survey published in "Modern Medicine" in late 2011, plastic surgeons malpractice premiums averaged ~$30,000 per year.
  • Office Lease: Plastic surgeons must have a place to evaluate patients both before and after surgery. Medical office leases can be quite expensive as certain adjustments must be made to make sure the offices are outfitted correctly.
  • Office Staff: Despite what some plastic surgeons may think, they can’t do it all alone. It takes a team effort for the smooth operation of the office. Specialized office staff are necessary to make sure the patient experience is optimized. The most rudimentary office staff is comprised of a receptionist, an office manager, a nurse or medical assistant, and a patient consultant. Busier plastic surgery practices may require additional staffing.
The Anesthesia Fee

In order to make you comfortable during your procedure, some type of anesthesia is required. If general anesthesia is necessary, an anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist will have to be present. These professionals also need to be compensated for their services. The fee may be decreased or even absent if your case only requires local anesthesia and an anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist is not needed.

The length of your surgery may also influence the anesthesia fee. A longer case means more labor and time expended by the anesthesia staff.

The Facility Fee

This fee in particular is the one many patients believe is nebulous. It may be easier to understand if you think of your surgery from beginning to end. When you arrive at the surgery center or hospital, a nurse registers you for surgery. The nurse must be paid. In the operating room, there are specialized staff members such as a scrub technician or scrub nurse that assists the surgeon by handing them surgical instruments. They too must be paid. There is a person dedicated to acquiring materials (suture, medications, implants, etc.) needed during your surgery. This staff member is known as the circulator, who must also be compensated. At the completion of your surgery, you are taken to a recovery room. The personnel in the recovery room must also be paid.

In addition to the facility personnel, some cases may have additional costs. Breast implants, infusion pumps for pain medication, facial implants, etc. are all additional costs that are not included in the surgeon’s fee.

So if you’ve ever wondered how a breast augmentation advertised for $3000 turns into $7000 by the time you walk out the door, now you know.

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