Plastic surgery tourism has become an increasingly popular category of travel in recent years, with patients from the United States and elsewhere around the globe heading to countries like Mexico and Korea for inexpensive plastic surgery procedures. But while many patients have heard the horror stories of botched surgeries and unsanitary clinics, experts are issuing a new warning for patients considering undergoing cosmetic procedures in foreign countries. That great deal you think you’re getting may not be as good as you think it is.
According to an article in the Korea Herald, a study of ten random plastic surgery clinics revealed that foreign plastic surgery patients were charged as much as double what local patients were charged for the exact same procedure. So, what’s behind these stunning price hikes? According to the clinics, many offer “foreigner exclusive” services in their procedures that local patients don’t require.
Dr. Bruce Chau is a Berkeley, Michigan plastic surgeon. He believes that these so-called exclusive perks are only half of the story.
“The clinics are justifying the increase in price by saying clients who come just for surgery need expedited care and additional services because they may not be able to return for follow-up care, but many of the clinics refuse to allow these patients to decline these extras in exchange for a lower rate,” said Chau. “This leads you to believe that they’re being less than honest about the nature of the fees.”
Chau believes instead, clinics are taking advantage of tourists looking to save money by traveling abroad for surgery.
“A foreign patient isn’t going to know the local rate,” Chau said.”In many cases, they may not even speak the local language. This makes it very easy to take advantage of foreign patients and try and sell them on something they don’t need and may not even get.”
As for the extra care these clinics claim to provide, Chau says this should not require an extra fee.
“In the United States, follow-up care is usually included in the price of surgery, even if the patient is coming from abroad,” Chau said. “It seems counterintuitive to charge more for this. Shouldn’t you be paying less money if you won’t be able to attend all your aftercare appointments?”
Ultimately, surgeons like Chau believe it’s up to patients to do their research before choosing a foreign surgeon.
“Between the cost of travel, lodging and the surgery itself, consider how much are you’re really saving,” Chau said. “Add in those extra fees, and by the time you’re done, you’re probably paying more to go somewhere supposedly less-expensive.”
Worse yet, Chau says if a problem arises once you get home, you’re looking at booking another costly trip for follow-up care or paying someone local to fix your foreign surgeon’s work.