Prices for Asian cosmetic plastic surgery in the United States are much higher than those publicized throughout East and Southeast Asia. Or at least it may seem that way on first glance.
Costs for more straightforward procedures like double eyelid surgery by the suture method can, compared to fees in the United States, vary from as low as 10% in rural China to 30-50% in Southeast Asian countries to 60-75% in South Korea or Singapore to 80-110% in Japan. Because of currency fluctuations, absolute numbers mean very little.
Sound good? Before you contact Expedia, be advised that you don't need to travel abroad to find cheap surgery. Rock-bottom prices are readily available in any American city for patients not particularly picky about their results.
However, assuming you already understand that plastic surgery is not a simple commodity that always turns out the same, here are a few others items to consider:
For less common procedures or those not available in the United States (for instance, surgical calf reduction, leg lengthening, some of the maxillofacial procedures, etc), Asian prices may seem unexpectedly high, especially relative to the more common operations. Supply and demand are not economic forces unknown in other lands.
When comparing costs, be sure to factor in all of the variables that apply in each case, including surgeon and facility, safety, travel, lodging, costs for a companion, and many other tangible and intangible uncertainties that may arise when seeking care far from home. Doing such a calculation is harder than you might think, as described in some detail here. "Cheap" plastic surgery is not always what it seems.
Also, be aware that prices charged to medical tourists traveling from other countries are not usually as low as the prices that are charged to local citizens. Don't assume that numbers you see advertised on a foreign website apply in every instance because they don't, especially for people coming from a "wealthy" country.
Some medical tourists have found that even prices agreed upon ahead of time may not be honored once they arrive or may become padded before they depart by "extras" they simply assumed would be included in the "base" price.
Finally, prices continue to evolve as the more developed countries in East Asia seek economic and social parity with the United States. As Asian prices rise and American prices fall, it's not likely that cosmetic surgery in Asia will remain a relative bargain for very long.
Language barriers, cultural differences, and lack of legal protection for non-citizens can make financial planning for medical care in a foreign country a real challenge. Before sneering at higher costs in the United States, think carefully about why prices elsewhere can be (or at least seem) so much lower.
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