Are Americans More Willing to Pay for Plastic Surgery than Prescriptions?

The ability to pay for health care is an ongoing issue for many Americans, especially as health costs continue to increase. But a recent study conducted by Thomson Reuters found that Americans feel more optimistic about their ability to pay for their health care than they did at the end of 2010.

This is especially true in the area of elective surgeries, something more people are willing to pay for than they were in 2010. But what’s interesting in the study is that there was a decline in the number of people expecting to pay for their prescriptions. Does this mean that Americans are more willing to foot the bill for plastic surgery costs than their prescriptions?

Americans Struggle to Pay Health Care Bills

It’s no secret that Americans have been struggling to pay their health care bills for some time, largely due to rising medical costs. Whether they have health insurance or not, paying for medical costs out of pocket has become a daunting task.

Unfortunately, the struggle to pay has come at a cost. One side effect has been an increased chance of death, especially for those who are going without coverage. According to a study released in 2009 by the Cambridge Health Alliance, the risk of death increases by 40 percent for those who don’t have insurance.

Another issue associated with the struggle to pay health care bills is an increase in bankruptcy. Hoping to avoid advanced health issues, many people seek help only to see their bills mount.

A study conducted by The American Journal of Medicine found that in 2007, 62 percent of all bankruptcies were linked to medical expenses. Those lacking health insurance who filed for bankruptcy had an average of nearly $27,000 in medical bills, which makes clear why so many choose to skip medical treatment.

But with people willing to avoid medical treatment altogether as they struggle to pay healthcare costs, why would some then show preference toward paying for elective surgeries?

Study Finds Americans Less Likely to Delay Elective Surgeries

The Thomson Reuters Consumer Healthcare Sentiment Index, which is based on responses from a subset of 3,000 respondents surveyed each month, looked at how Americans feel about their ability to pay for health care services in the near future.

The survey found that the component of the index that explored whether people were more optimistic about their ability to pay for overall health care in the future rose 3 percent in January, as compared with Dec. 2010.

When the survey looked at elective surgeries (which can include medically-necessary issues to prolong life like an angioplasty, or cosmetic issues like face plastic surgery, tummy tuck or nose surgery) it found that this was an area Americans appear more certain that they will not cancel or delay in the coming months.

In an interview with CNBC, Julie Shook, product director for the Healthcare & Science business at Thomson Reuters stated that elective surgery was the thing that people were most likely to delay or cancel. “That apparently has turned around,” she said.

Another interesting find in the report was that Americans appear more likely to delay or not fill prescriptions in the near future.

Shook noted that in January “we had an all-time high in difficulty and that resulted primarily in them postponing or delaying filling, or not filling, prescriptions.”

Do People Value Plastic Surgery Over Their Prescriptions?

Of course, the study did not outright say that people value plastic surgery over their prescriptions, but the fact that people are willing to postpone or delay filling prescriptions but are less likely to postpone or cancel elective surgeries does make one wonder about the value that’s placed on plastic surgery.

We are undoubtedly bombarded with tons of plastic surgery pictures of celebrities, along with the implication that getting work done improves their lives.

A recent study conducted by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons found that cosmetic surgeries like facelifts, along with Botox and breast augmentation rose 5 percent from 2009 to 2010. Experts say the increase has a lot to do with the improved economy.

But if people are still worried about filling their prescriptions then why aren’t they worried about paying for elective surgeries?

Adam Hanft, founder of Hanft Projects, a branding strategy and marketing firm, was interviewed by Fox News in Feb. 2011. He noted in the interview that in addition to wanting to look younger to snag jobs in this tough economy, many are caught up in plastic surgery being the “in” thing to do.

Also, plastic surgeons often offer payment plans, which aren’t typically available when filling prescriptions.

What’s interesting is the average cost for plastic surgery could cost anywhere from $3,541 (breast augmentation) to $6,881 (facelift) or more, according to the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, while the Kaiser Family Foundation found in 2006 that the average cost of generic drugs was $32.

So despite the fact that plastic surgery prices may be higher than those of prescriptions, the ability to finance—along with the fact that filling some prescriptions is ongoing and plastic surgery is usually a one-time deal—could be making a difference in how people choose what healthcare expenses they will pay for.

There has undoubtedly been a shift in societal values so that external appearance has often taken precedence over internal health. Let’s just hope that the idea of Americans being more willing to pay for plastic surgery than prescriptions doesn’t become a studied fact.