Credit card processing for cosmetic surgery provides surgeons and patients with flexible, affordable, and secure payment solutions when insurance won’t cover necessary or desired procedures.
Therefore, cosmetic surgeons are one type of professional who definitely needs to accept credit card payments—or other financing options like a point-of-sale personal loan.
This is because cosmetic procedures are often outside the scope of what’s covered by medical insurance and patients who need or want cosmetic surgery will need to pay out of pocket.
As the average plastic surgery costs several thousand dollars, this is not going to be something patients want to pay for with cash—and it’s probably not an amount of cash you’d like to have sitting around until you take it to the bank.
Personal checks are another option, but in addition to the hassle of having to deposit them, they can sometimes lead to bounced payments. Then, of course, there is the fact that most patients are not going to even have personal checks on hand.
For all these reasons, debit and credit card payments are really the best options for plastic surgeons, for hassle-free, streamlined, and secure payments.
What Are the Costs of the Most Common Types of Cosmetic Surgery?
Here are a few common types of cosmetic surgeries and their costs.
Breast implants (augmentation) costs an average of $6,525. A facelift may cost $12,250. Liposuction may cost around $6,175. A Tummy Tuck can cost about $8,275. And a Rhinoplasty can average $7,650.
As you might guess, some of these surgeries are purely done for cosmetic appearances and there is no medical reason for performing them. However, some of them may be performed because there is a medical necessity involved (as we will soon discuss).
What Types of Cosmetic Surgeries Are Covered By Insurance?
Coverage details vis-a-vis medical insurance will vary from company to company. But one common factor as to whether or not health insurance covers plastic surgery is why the surgery is being performed. If the surgery is purely elective, there’s a decent chance it will not be covered by medical insurance.
But if there is an imminent or preventative reason for performing the surgery, there is a greater likelihood that will be covered—in regards to the latter reason, because insurance companies have a vested interest in keeping their long-term costs down.
If, for example, the removal of some tonsils will cost a few thousand dollars now, but prevent years of treating related medical conditions, the insurer will opt for a little pain now, over a lot of pain later.
Rhinoplasty is commonly known as nose surgery or a nose job. While this procedure is sometimes performed exclusively for those who want to downgrade the size of their schnoz (if we may be blunt) it’s also often performed for patients who have a mechanical issue like a deviated septum or small nostrils.
These issues can obstruct airflow and lead to further complications like difficulty breathing and sleeping—which in turn can lead to a host of other physiological and even psychological complications.
Blepharoplasty is the removal of excess skin around the eyes, which can result from the weakening of muscles around them. If excess skin and fat are hanging down so low they cause visual obstruction, this can become a medical and safety concern for which insurance companies are willing to finance a rectification via corrective surgery.
Breast Augmentation or Reconstruction
Breast augmentation, reconstruction, or implant removal can also be covered by medical insurance, especially in cases where breast cancer was involved—like the removal of a tumor via mastectomy.
Alternatively, if breast implants have (since their surgical installment) caused some complications or facilitated an infection, their removal is not just a matter of cosmetic preference but of legitimate acute care.
Skin Removal or Skin Graft
Skin removal and/or skin graft is another area of plastic surgery that is commonly covered by insurance. Sometimes a patient will need skin removed, for instance, if they suffer from chronic rashes or epidermal infections.
Burn victims will need skin grafts not only for cosmetic reasons but because a healthy epidermis is a necessary part of keeping the internal body safe and retaining the moisture it needs to function.
Insurance Doesn’t Cover Everything With Cosmetic Surgery
All of these types of surgeries are commonly covered by medical insurance. But keep in mind that sometimes medical insurance does not cover everything. There may be copays, which means that the patient will have to pay a portion (even a small one) of the procedure cost.
This is especially true if the patient has not yet met their medical insurance deductible. Still, even after they meet their deductible, there may be copays.
The medical insurance landscape in America is complicated. Especially after the introduction of the Affordable Care Act (which was touted as something that would simplify the insurance industry). But while plans and copays and deductibles may vary from person to person, the average deductible for employed individuals is close to $2,825. That means unless someone spends close to $3,000 on medical costs, they are still going to have to shell out some money for procedures before their insurance company takes over.
But wait…there’s more. Some people have much higher deductibles than that. The data cited above was for healthcare.gov enrollees. Some individuals or families have much higher deductibles. Perhaps $5,000 or more.
This may be because they wanted a plan with lower monthly premiums. And just like any other type of insurance, lower monthly payments sometimes means shelling out more money when there’s an incident.
If these high-deductible policyholders come to you for a nose job, breast implants, or skin graft, they are more than likely going to be paying for this surgery out of pocket because their deductible is so high. The only exception to this rule would be if the surgery in question is specifically covered in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) list of preventative care.
Spoiler alert: it’s not.
The ACA Does Not Mandate Coverage for Cosmetic Surgery
While these ACA preventive care measures include things like routine vaccinations, cancer screenings, and certain forms of counseling, it does not cover getting a schnoz resculpted—even if your primary care physician insists it is the root cause of your sleep apnea, which in turn is contributing to some depression and irritability.
There may be some rare instances where if plastic surgery is part of treating an emergency, it’s covered. But more likely than not, if you’re reading this article, and you’re a plastic surgeon with your own clinic, that does not apply to you.
Of course, not every insurance plan has to be ACA-compliant; just those offered on public, government-sponsored marketplaces. For instance, around 13% of covered employers are covered by a non-ACA plan that was grandfathered in under the radar. These non-ACA plans may or may not cover some forms of plastic surgery if they are deemed a medical necessity. Either way, ACA-compliant plans are not required.
Patients With No Insurance Also Have No Coverage for Cosmetic Surgery
And then, of course, there are those people who just don’t have health insurance. With the individual mandate repealed, nearly 30 million Americans are walking around without health insurance.
Some of these individuals would like to have health insurance, but they haven’t secured employment that provides a healthcare benefit. Others are self-employed and reluctant to pay out of pocket. And some people (believe it or not) just don’t want health insurance because they think it’s a scam.
As you can see, there is much ink to be spilled on this topic, and those who are interested can dive into the policyholder handbooks for some comparative analysis or tune in to C-SPAN when healthcare-related laws are on the congressional floor. If the whole topic confuses you and/or you don’t like the ACA, you’re not alone among polled plastic surgeons.
In summary, even those patients with insurance will probably still need to pay for plastic surgery, either because their insurance doesn’t cover it at all, or because they still have not met their deductible.
As mentioned, it’s likely these individuals are not going to want to pay for it with thousands of dollars in cash and it’s not likely that you’re going to want to accept a personal check. A credit card processor is, therefore, the way to go for everybody.
How Do Patients Usually Pay for Cosmetic Surgery?
Medical Credit Card
One common way to pay for plastic surgery is so-called medical credit cards. One of the card brands in this industry is the CareCredit Card. CareCredit is not like a regular credit card. Instead of the account holder obtaining a credit line, an account opening involves CareCredit paying off the medical provider (you) and then having the patient complete a payment plan that might be up to 60 months.
There are some downsides to CareCredit-type arrangements, especially for the consumer. One is that CareCredit is all well and good if you can pay it off in time, and never miss a payment. But if you don’t pay it off in time, or miss a payment, these types of creditors can slap the cardholder with back interest, all at once.
That may not seem like such a concern for financially responsible individuals, but the bottom line is that if any kind of surprise occurs that derails the cardholder’s finances, they are at risk of owing a lot more money than they’d like.
Tapping into savings is another way that individuals can pay for plastic surgery. But with about 50% of Americans having less than $5,000 in savings and 35% having less than $1,000, that is not going to work for every patient.
Another method might be to get a personal loan or a HELOC (home equity line of credit). In terms of the HELOC, this will only work for patients who have excellent credit and have paid down enough of their mortgage to have at least 15% to 20% equity in their home.
As for personal loans, they can also have some unfavorable terms such as a balloon payment structure, where the borrower must suddenly pay off a large amount of money by a certain date.
Credit cards are another common way to pay for plastic surgery. And since many credit cards give points for purchases, this can be a way for the patient to somewhat reduce their expenses—but not often noticeably. For example, a credit card with 1.5% cash back would result in a $60 statement credit on a $4000 surgery.
What’s often more relevant is the 0% APR that a new credit card might come with for a certain amount of time, such as 12-21 months. A patient can put a plastic surgery charge onto such an account and carry the balance interest-free for almost two years—then open another account and use a balance transfer to bring the remaining balance onto the new credit card.
In fact, using a credit card might be the best way to pay for plastic surgery. There is no tapping into savings, no having to drain the checking account, and no punitive personal loans or CareCredit type of arrangements with the threat of back interest.
Can the Average Person Afford Cosmetic Surgery?
Around 55% of Americans have medical debt, largely because their health insurance has deductibles that they haven’t met. And what’s more, around 24% of these people cannot pay this debt off and their bills are overdue.
Much of this debt consists of emergency hospitalizations, doctor visits, lab fees, dental care, pregnancy and birth, ambulance services, and prescription drugs. With numbers like this, it’s hard to suggest that the average person can afford a large surprise like plastic surgery.
But then again, many plastic surgeries are not medically necessary surprises—they are purely discretionary cosmetic decisions made by people with disposable incomes or access to credit. And for those Americans who cannot really afford it in terms of cash on hand, there is always more money to borrow, if they have a credit history.
Once again, either way, your customers are probably going to be using credit—either because they have to or just because it’s more convenient.
How Does Credit Card Processing For Cosmetic Surgery Work?
Medical billing is probably not something you want to spend too much time thinking about. And actually, if you’re going to be taking credit card payments, it won’t have to be, either. Another great thing about taking credit card payments is that a payment processor takes so much of the backend work off your shoulders—and administrative tasks are one of the leading reasons for burnout in the medical profession.
All you need is a point-of-sale terminal and the software to manage it, which are often packaged by the same vendor. You can then have patients swipe, insert, or tap cards over the system to make a payment.
The information is sent over the card network associated with their particular piece of plastic (Visa, Mastercard, Discover, American Express) and worked out between their bank and your bank. In return, the payment processor will charge a small fee, no more than a few percentage points per transaction, for facilitating the payment.
Much more simple than punching in the right code and/or calling insurance companies. Although, there is a downside: you won’t get to hear that hold muzak.
What is Point-of-sale Financing for Cosmetic Surgery?
Another unique payment solution that should be considered is point-of-sale financing. This has become increasingly common in recent years as companies like Affirm, Afterpay, and Klarna help consumers navigate the retail landscape with payment plans. Sometimes they can even save money on a payment plan because the rates and fees are lower than they would be charged by a traditional creditor.
If your payment processor offers this type of arrangement, your POS terminal—with a few simple questions for the patient—can become a sort of loan broker to connect them with a payment plan. You can suggest this to patients as a Plan A to try out before the Plan B of using a credit card to pay in full.
From your end, the lender will pay you for the procedure and the patient will be responsible for making payments to the lender they are set up on the backend with. Everything can be packaged as if your office is presenting the plan at the point of sale for a streamlined patient experience.
Credit Cards are the Way to Pay For Cosmetic Surgery
Credit card processing for cosmetic surgery is a must for practitioners. This is because most patients are probably going to have to pay for all or a portion of their cosmetic surgery. For those whose insurance policies do cover (some of) the procedure, there will still be copays and deductibles.
And for those who have not met their deductible or who are undergoing a completely elective procedure, credit cards are often the best option for making a manageable payment with the least punitive terms, and the easiest opportunity to roll the balance into a continued low-interest arrangement.
For these reasons, finding a good payment processor—e.g. one with the lowest rates, best and most responsive customer service, and best understanding of the medical profession—is the most important step you can take toward collecting patient payments.