Health insurance companies that cover cosmetic surgery are expensive- if you can find them. And finding a company willing to do so is nearly impossible! This is because such procedures provide no medical benefit in most cases; they are almost always done to simply improve the patient’s appearance and self-image.
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WebMD cites a 2008 survey from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons in providing the average cost of some typical cosmetic surgery procedures. According to their numbers a typical face lift was just over $6,000; rhinoplasty, also known as a nose job, was roughly $4,000; lip augmentation came in at $1,700.
It’s easy to see that cosmetic surgery can run up quite a bill. Since insurance companies view these surgeries as unnecessary they are unwilling to pay such steep bills. The question is, what are your options if your surgery is not covered by health insurance companies?
Will an insurance company pay if my surgery is deemed medically necessary?
Sometimes a procedure that is deemed medically necessary will be covered by your standard health insurance benefit coverage, up to certain limits. However, that’s not as cut and dried as it sounds. The term “medically necessary” can mean different things to your doctor and your insurance company.
For example, in vitro fertilization might be deemed medically necessary for couples suffering from infertility who want to have a baby. Without in vitro fertilization it might be nearly impossible for this couple to ever become parents.
On the other hand, since having a baby is not something that’s required for the good health and survival of the couple in question, it is not medically necessary from the standpoint of the insurance company. Therefore, in vitro fertilization would be considered an elective procedure not covered by a typical health insurance company.
The Cleveland Clinic takes this principle one step further in explaining body contouring surgery. This surgery is often used to remove excess skin after an individual has lost large amounts of weight. Though doctors will sometimes insist the procedure is medically necessary to ensure the good health the patient, insurance companies often disagree and deny coverage.
I’ve heard mastectomies are sometimes covered; is that true?
A mastectomy will almost always be covered to one degree or another. This type of surgery is most often performed because of the presence of breast cancer or a potentially high risk of it developing.
Along those same lines, breast augmentation surgery following mastectomy also stands a good chance of being covered. In both of these cases the surgeries are the result of cancer, or the potential thereof, which takes them out of the realm of elective surgery and puts them into the realm of medically necessary.
Similarly, there are times when a doctor recommends a woman have breast reduction surgery to reduce her risk of developing cancer. Again, this type of procedure is deemed medically necessary for the health and wellbeing of the patient and will usually be covered. Both breast augmentation and reduction procedures done simply for cosmetic reasons will not be included in most individual health insurance plans.
How do I pay for cosmetic surgery if my health insurance will not cover it?
A large percentage of cosmetic surgery patients will save extra money over the course of a couple years so that they can pay cash for their procedures. Not only does this get the bill paid up front with no interest charges, but it can also result in a doctor giving you a cash discount.
Other means of payment include financing through the doctor’s office, taking out a personal loan, utilizing home equity lines of credit, or paying for it with a credit card. In any case, patients should think long and hard about the expense of cosmetic surgery, and how they’re going to pay for it, before deciding to have it done.
What about all those places that advertise cheap cosmetic surgery?
If you insist on having cosmetic surgery you should be as conscientious about cost as you would about any high ticket item. Take the time to shop around, compare prices, and check references. And always remember that the cheapest price does not always give you the most qualified doctor or the best end result.
There have been plenty of stories of botched cosmetic surgery procedures by discounted doctors who were not qualified to do the work. Be sure your choice of doctors is someone with a proven track record and a long list of satisfied customers.
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