Chapter 2 Page 9 | Prices in the United States and Abroad

Consumers who consider going abroad to save money for cosmetic surgery, dental work, or any other kind of medical care, will hear these bromides, either from voices in their heads or from well-meaning friends and relatives:

  • You get what you pay for.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Quality doesn’t come cheap.

One does not have to have an intimate knowledge of international economics to understand why prices for high-quality cosmetic surgery can be far lower in less-developed countries than in the United States or Western Europe. A good surgeon is an artist, a psychologist, and modern-day wizard of sorts who transforms and restores; but he or she is also a businessperson. Cosmetic surgeons treat patients and are paid fees; cosmetic surgeons whose services are in demand can and do charge higher fees.

Simple, right? You get what you pay for, and quality doesn’t come cheap. However, among other things, geography matters a great deal. In your own town or city, you may find a range of prices from different cosmetic surgeons, as you might expect. Well-known surgeons with years of experience and hundreds or even thousands of satisfied customers will charge the most. A surgeon fresh from his or her residency, just starting out, trained but relatively inexperienced, will charge less. It is not unheard of for surgeons just starting out to offer reduced fees to clients who will agree to provide testimonials or referrals or otherwise participate in marketing the new business.

In your town, there will also be doctors and surgeons who may not be board certified in plastic surgery who nonetheless legally practice it, to an extent. The ASPS warns that such practitioners may be less-safe choices and, generally speaking, one would guess that they are right. Still, it goes on.

The average price of a typical facelift in the United States performed by a board-certified plastic surgeon in an accredited surgical facility, including surgeon’s fee, anesthesia fee, and operating facility fee, is in the $7,000 to $9,000 range, according to (2005)

That might be the range in your town. But if you live in New York City, the range might be 50 percent higher. If you live in parts of the less-urban South or Midwest, the range might be a little lower. Geography matters, even within the United States. There is more demand for cosmetic and aesthetic surgery and procedures in urban areas and on the coasts; and the costs of living and of doing business are correspondingly higher. So how can board-certified, experienced surgeons working in modern facilities in Mexico, Brazil, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Thailand, India, and other countries charge so much less? While a facelift abroad is more likely to cost between $3,500 and $6,000, including travel, meals, and accommodations, the costs of living and of doing business is correspondingly less in these countries. The top surgeons in the world, those with international reputations, can charge and get U.S. prices wherever they may be, but the many trained and qualified surgeons who aspire to be known as among the elite in the world must charge far less to draw patients from abroad, including the United States. And they can make a good living doing so.

Many think U.S. surgeons are greedy, but I do not think that is the case. They face significantly higher costs than do their counterparts and peers in other countries. In many ways, the reasons prices for cosmetic and other surgeries are lower in other countries than in the United States and western Europe are the same reasons why it is less expensive to produce DVD players or textiles abroad: They have less-expensive land, less-expensive construction costs, lower labor costs, lower taxes, and lower administrative costs. It is a mistake to single out any one thing as being responsible for the difference.

Malpractice insurance costs are also partly to blame. Though malpractice rates vary, depending on amounts of coverage, U.S. surgeons I interviewed said they each pay between $40,000 and $70,000 annually, compared to the less than $6,000 a year a Brazilian surgeon I know pays. This is a substantial difference, yet a small part of the overall equation. About the only business expense that is the same for surgeons regardless of where they live is medical equipment and medical supplies.

Price is relative from country to country, and a patient looking at the possibility of traveling abroad for care can responsibly factor that in. Some prices are so low that one can not help but be suspicious. Substantial inquiries are merited and references should be required. Cosmetic and elective surgery prices in the Far East are, for the most part, somewhat lower than those in South America, which are somewhat lower than those in Central America. I know that there are good surgeons in all those places.

Surgeons in the Far East, in fact, may be more likely to have trained in the United States and be fluent in English, though they have no monopoly on either of those things.

The cosmetic surgeon who charges the highest prices in your town may well be among the best and will almost certainly be among the most experienced. But paying the highest price does not guarantee the best outcome. Is a $10,000 face-lift in New York City better than a $7,000 one in Cincinnati? Is either better than a $3,000 one in Brazil? It depends.

I have talked to people who are unhappy with their expensive cosmetic work and people who are thrilled with the quality of their inexpensive results. For every anecdote, there is another one to give lie to the first. Beyond the borders of the United States, options abound for those willing to take the time to investigate, analyze, and choose.



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10 Responses to “Cosmetic Surgery Prices in the United States vs. Abroad”

  1. Harold Means says:

    Nice! I hope you will keep updating your content constantly as you have one dedicated reader here. :-D

  2. Roxy says:

    Great article! Here is a link with a similar article and updated prices:

  3. Shelley Krag says:

    It is very difficult for some to look the way they want. Many people will reach to look they want. Nobody should judge other peoples decisions.

  4. Alec Ladtkow says:

    Looking good is difficult. Many people will reach to look they want. It’s not for me to judge.

  5. I agree completely with your statement. The country’s economic status and environment plays and important role in the “business” decisions adopted by health care providers. However it is easy to understand how, for example, a plastic surgeon from a third world country could be as talented or more talented than a another one in the United States.


    Universal Plastic Surgery
    PR. Team

  6. Corine says:

    Aging graciously was not one of my better attributes. Having lost over 100 lbs and a hysterectomy, my skin was just not recovering. MY face began to sag and deep lines around my mouth and neck were extremely discouraging to me. I felt like I had aged 10 years in one year and wanted it back. So after 4 years of considering plastic surgery abroad I took the decision to have the operation on August 2010, before I felt too old to benefit.
    Having the facial lift brought back 10 years I was wanting back and then some. I feel youthful again. I don’t mind looking in the mirror now and seeing the younger me again.
    I went abroad for my surgery (in Bolivia) but before decinding to have it done abroad I did a lot of research and finally opted for MakeoverTravel Clinic in Bolivia.
    I had my facelift done in Bolivia. I paid $2,900 for my procedure. The price also included the procedure, the medical team fees, hospital fees, stay at hotel for 12 days, transportation, personal assistant, ect. So $2,900 for an all inclusive package it’s very cheap when you know that the cost of a facelift in the US is about $10,000 to 15,000
    My surgeon did an amazing job. He is a miracle worker!!!! I totally recommend MakeoverTravel if you are considering having a procedure done abroad.

  7. In Europe, for example, most of the cost goes on hospital fees, cost of anaesthesia, assistants, insurance, and high taxes etc – at the end of the day there isn’t all that much left for the surgeon himself. An average European plastic surgeon will earn a lot less than his US colleague. Another thing to bear in mind is that many successful US plastic surgeons and companies usually spend substantial amounts on marketing and advertisement, which also increases the price of cosmetic surgery in US.

    Nevertheless, going for a facelift or rhinoplasty at the times of financial crisis, could have its advantages: many of the plastic surgeons have lowered their prices to nearly the break-even point.
    Here’s a tip for those looking to get a plastic surgery abroad:
    A) look for a country which has well regulated plastic surgery market (where the standards are monitored by the government). Most likely this will be within the European Union as they have a lot (!) of regulations.
    B) look for a country which has a long standing tradition of plastic surgery, and therefore a relatively high number of plastic surgeons per capita (the more competition the lower the average price within that country)
    C) Look for a country that was hit worst by the financial crisis (the worse the hit, the lower the plastic surgeons are likely to take for the same traditionally high quality of service).

    Potential patients should really do their research – it takes time, yes, but while there are many newdies and charlatans out there, there are also some genuinely superb surgeons out there, and it is actually possible to find a very good deal for a very low price with a highly qualified and very experienced plastic surgeon.

  8. I think medical tourism was born because of the overwhelming cost of aesthetic and health treatments in the United States. Since majority of people who engage with medical tourism came from Western countries and Europe. Cost plays a vital role in this industry.

  9. lyn says:

    hi corinne, i love your story, the weight loss and the surgery. i’ll bet you look amazing! i am strongly considering going to bolivia for a facelift and would love to know your doctor’s name. i was quoted $3,500 for full face lift including 10 days in a hotel.

    thank you much, lyn

  10. nina says:

    Hi Corine, Coild you let me know the doctor who did your procedure as I would also like to have it done in Bolivia.
    Thank you

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