Would you ever buy a house without windows and doors?
How about a car that didn’t include the price of tires, mirrors, and headlights? Probably not. It actually sounds ridiculous. And like the responsible consumer that you are, you’d probably do your research first in order to find the best deal. Right? Sadly, when it comes to undergoing a medical or cosmetic procedure, patients are more likely to neglect the fine print. Whereas an average person takes 6-12 months before making a major purchase, when it comes to our health, we’re quicker to pull the trigger without fully understanding the cost breakdown.
Are You Paying More Than You Should?
As international travel becomes more affordable, medical travel, or medical tourism, is becoming a safe and economical option for those looking to save money without sacrificing quality. Driven by rising insurance prices, under coverage, and long wait times (see: Why Are Millions of People Choosing Medical Travel?), medical travel is sparking competition between European clinics looking to attract more international clients. In many ways, healthy competition is good. But like all good things, it leaves room for those looking to lure in patients with empty promises.
Take dental crowns and veneers, for instance. Cosmetic dentistry is a booming industry in Central Europe. Hundreds of online medical platforms are available to provide free quotes and facilitate your travel. However, some quotes- though extremely cheap- do not include all of the necessary treatment costs.
Recently, a dental clinic in Hungary was quoting patients 4,500 EUR for 12 full ceramic crowns. Several patients reported arranging their surgeries, as well as flights and accommodation, only to find that the original price did NOT include the price of Kofferfam (dental dam), anesthesia or the temporary crowns.
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Similarly, breast augmentation is notorious for hidden costs and caveats. A common trap is when clinics advertise low prices, but only if a specific, often lower-quality, implant is used. The leading problem with cheap implants is that patients are more likely to experience corrective surgery down the road- often costing more than the original surgery.
Plastic surgeon, Dr. Michael Law comments, “Some physicians promote low-priced breast augmentation, only for a patient to discover that the price is only for one type of implant, with one type of incision…then, the “bait and switch” ensues.” He continues to explain, “A different implant will cost more…an anesthesiologist will cost more…[and] then, just like buying a used car, the price will shift from the total price to monthly payments with a financing plan that could be very regrettable. This is a huge red flag.”
“Some physicians promote low priced breast augmentation, only for a patient to discover that the price is for only one type of implant, with one type of incision…then, the “bait and switch” ensues.”
Unfortunately, read the fine print quotes are popping up all over the globe. The good news is, you can protect yourself with these three, simple tips:
1. Request A FULL Cost Breakdown
The is especially important for patients traveling abroad and negotiating quotes online. Whether you are working directly with the clinic or using an online medical travel platform, you have the right to know exactly what you are paying for. Below is a patient quote for 12 full ceramic crowns from two separate dental clinics in Prague, the Czech Republic. In this case, transparency is key. Otherwise, you could end up paying a la carte for things such as anesthesia, bandages, drains, medication and overnight recovery time.
Price Offer Summary
2. Only Work With Accredited Clinics & Surgeons
This may seem obvious, but thanks to technology, any clinic or surgeon with a sexy new website may seem legitimate. Memberships and certifications to look for include:
- The International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS)
- European Association of Plastic Surgeons (EURAPS)
- British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS)
- General Medical Council (GMC)
- American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS)
A trusted clinic will typically display their accreditation and provide explicit pricing. A board certified surgeon will likely do the same. If you are using a medical platform, make sure they only partner with accredited clinics. Also, ensure that they are providing quotes directly from the clinic.
3. Cheaper Isn’t Always Cheaper
Undergoing a medical or cosmetic procedure is not like negotiating a new data plan. While it’s important to find an affordable treatment, it is certainly not everything. And often you end up paying more than the slightly more expensive treatment.The patients who went to the Hungarian dental clinic ended up paying a total of 6400–6900 EUR. This is approximately 2,000 EUR more than the original quote.
To avoid a similar fate, treat your procedure like buying a new car. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. New York plastic surgeon, Dr. Matthew Schulman adds,”While [there] are legitimate ways to keep costs down…some doctors cut costs other ways. Some may choose to lower costs by using poorly qualified staff and non-board-certified anesthesiologists. Others may obtain medications, supplies, and even breast implants from overseas distributors where prices are lower but standards are more lax. These are all things that can place your results – and personal safety – at risk.”
Basically, it is important to take your time. Weigh your options, do your research, and remember that it is your health (and wallet) that will ultimately pay the price.