There's no doubt about it—procedures can be pricey. Since plastic surgery is typically considered elective (or not medically necessary), insurance doesn't usually cover the expense and patients must pay out-of-pocket. However, there are a few creative ways to work around this. Here are eight tips to ensure that you're getting the best work done at the most affordable price.
1. Do your research.
You'll want to meet with various plastic surgeons prior to committing to one, so register at a website like RealSelf—the world's largest community for sharing information about cosmetic surgery, dermatology, dentistry, and other elective treatments. Many certified plastic surgeons offer free consultations if you mention you found them through the RealSelf website. You can also check out the "Find Special Offers in Your Area" section to see current specials from local providers.
2. Get rewarded.
Sign up for programs offering reward points that can be used toward cosmetic procedures. The Brilliant Distinctions program is a popular one. By registering, you can earn credit toward the following: fillers like Juvederm, Botox, breast implants, lash growth products like Latisse, and any number of anti-aging skincare products, such as peels, sunscreen, brightening creams, glycolics, and moisturizers.
Through Brilliant Distinctions, points are earned in one of three ways:
- Shop through the Brilliant Distinctions Mall and earn points for every online purchase. The mall is full of popular national retailers like J.Crew, Victoria's Secret, and Gap.
- Receive a treatment or purchase a qualifying product from a participating provider and earn points. The amount earned for each treatment is listed on the Brilliant Distinctions website. For example, a Botox injection is worth 200 points (a $20 credit) toward your next procedure with a participating provider.
- Refer friends and receive 200 points for each one who joins the program—you can earn up to 1000 points ($100).
3. Sign up for newsletters.
Once you've narrowed your focus to a few local surgeons, visit their websites and sign up for their newsletters. The newsletters often offer monthly specials to subscribers and are a good way to stay in the know about office events. Many practices offer a complimentary "meet the surgeon night," Botox parties, and other fun events where you can get to know the office staff and chat with previous clients.
4. Ask the surgeon.
This is one step many patients don't think they can—or should—take advantage of. However, many surgeons run a private practice and have the ability to be flexible with their rates. They may be willing to work with you regarding the cost of a procedure—particularly if price is the one thing holding you back. If you have the ability to pay upfront, many offices will offer a discount for payments in cash (expect a small percentage off, such as 5 percent). You can also inquire about discounts during slower seasons. For example, a surgeon may not do many breast augmentation surgeries during the summer months when women are often dressed in skimpier clothes. You may be able to negotiate a discount if you schedule a surgery during that time frame.
5. Combine procedures.
If you're planning to have more than one procedure done during a five-year time frame, consider combining them to save money on lab work and anesthesia expenses, which can be a significant portion of the overall cost. Discuss this with your doctor and see if it's an option.
6. Have insurance cover your lab fees.
Because cosmetic surgery is considered elective, even the associated lab work isn't typically covered by insurance. Discuss the blood samples you'll need with your surgeon and request a list of the necessary lab work. Then, schedule an annual physical through your primary physician's office and request the samples be drawn at that time. You can pick up a copy of the lab work and deliver it to your surgeon or have your primary doctor fax a copy to your surgeon's office. A good part of the necessary lab work should be covered under your annual physical, but there may be a few tests you still have to pay for out-of-pocket. Since lab work can sometimes cost thousands of dollars, this a great way to shave money off the total cost of a procedure, but there is one thing to note: Plastic surgeons will typically request that your lab work be done within a few weeks of the scheduled surgery date, so schedule your annual physical the same month as your cosmetic procedure.
7. Agree to be a spokesmodel.
While this may not always work for surgeons with well-established practices, newer practices are often in need of examples of their work to show to prospective patients. You may be able to negotiate a small discount if you agree to have before-and-after photos displayed in an album at the surgeon's office or on their website if you agree to write a review for the website or if you can refer other patients to the practice. Some surgeons appear on regional or national television shows to demonstrate procedures they offer, and you could ask for a larger discount if you agree to appear on the show as a patient.
If you're still having trouble coming up with the money for a plastic surgery procedure after utilizing the tips above, check out sites such as CareCredit, CosmetiCredit, MedLoanFinance, or SurgeryLoans.com, or ask your doctor about other financing options.