Most legitimate plastic surgeons charge a fee for their consultations. The ones who don’t usually spend very little time with you during the consultation or are very new in practice.You get what you pay for. If you are given a free consultation, realize that it is a marketing session that will be spent for the most part watching a DVD or speaking with staff members. The average plastic surgeon who charges for a consultation barely meets his expenses with the fee. In business terms, it is called a ‘‘loss leader.’’Average overhead in a plastic surgeon’s office ranges from $100 to $300 per hour. My fee for a consultation is $200, and I barely break even. I know that patients are reluctant to spend more because they often see several plastic surgeons before making a decision.From the plastic surgeon’s point of view, however, if a patient is not willing to pay $200 for a consultation, she may not be a serious candidate for cosmetic surgery and may well be wasting the surgeon’s time. Back in my first year of practice, when I did free consultations, I felt that the consultation was an afternoon’s entertainment for many patients.
Surgical fees vary widely among surgeons. Some plastic surgeons are simply better than others: they can charge more for the surgery. Their results demonstrate their capabilities. Price shopping is not the best way to choose a plastic surgeon. Fees also vary between geographic areas, although the differences are less than they used to be.Sometimes patients think that plastic surgeons’ fees are excessive. In a world where actors, baseball players, and corporate presidents make millions of dollars, think about the importance of your appearance and your health when considering the appropriateness of fees. Thomas J. Krizek, M.D., F.A.C.S., former chief of plastic surgery at several medical schools, was fond of telling the following story:A man brought his sickly auto in to his auto mechanic.
After hearing the symptoms, the mechanic told him it would cost $400 to fix the problem. Happy that the bill did not seem excessive, the man watched as his car was put up on the rack. The mechanic took a rubber mallet and banged four times underneath the car. He put the car back on the ground and announced that it was fixed. Outraged, the customer said, ‘‘$400 for 4 bangs on my car— that’s $100 a bang. I could have done that! Your fee is outrageous.’’ The mechanic replied, ‘‘Oh, I didn’t charge you $100 a bang. It was $1 a bang. The $396 was for knowing where to bang.’’The moral of this story is that the surgical fee not only pays for the actual procedure and aftercare, but for the ten years of training, the judgment developed over decades of training and practice, and the wealth of experience obtained over a career.