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Cost always factor in cosmetic surgery

Madigan Public Affairs

Published: 11:50AM July 25th, 2013

There are a lot of misconceptions about plastic surgery and the military. It seems everyone has a friend, who has a friend, who knows a lady whose sister-in-law received free plastic surgery just by saying she was depressed about her looks. Then there’s the urban legend that every service member or their spouse is entitled to one free cosmetic procedure during their military career.

The truth is, Tricare only covers reconstructive surgery for trauma and cancer patients. However, cosmetic procedures and surgeries are available to qualified service members and beneficiaries at rates comparable to, if not cheaper than those in the civilian sector.

The Madigan Ear, Nose and Throat department’s facial plastic surgery clinic offers the same elective procedures as that of leading plastic surgeon offices in Washington state.

“In addition to performing a wide range of ENT services, the clinic offers comprehensive evaluation of cosmetic and functional deformities in the head and neck. These include nasal surgery, facelifts, eyelid and brow rejuvenation, scar revision as well as a full complement of facial fillers and Botox treatments. The clinic also offers skin resurfacing and tattoo removal with lasers as well as chemical peels,” said Staff Sgt. Randy McElhaney, Madigan ENT Dept.

The team can also correct functional problems such as acne and facial scars, congenital ear deformities and reconstruction after skin cancer surgery. Other services include laser tattoo removal and chemical peels.

Pricing at the ENT/facial plastic surgery clinic varies, but is typically cheaper than civilian plastic surgery fees. Botox injections cost approximately six-dollars per unit at Madigan, whereas plastic surgery offices in Tacoma, charge $12 to $14 per unit. Eyelid surgery is about the same price as it is in the civilian sector, but a facelift will cost only $4,000. That’s $5,000 cheaper than a civilian facility in the area.

“We believe that our service members deserve the same high quality care that civilians get in large healthcare organizations across the country at an affordable price and in a safe hospital environment,” said McElhaney.

While price will always be a factor, Maj. (Dr.) Joseph Shvidler, Madigan ENT department facial plastic surgeon, said a clinic’s safety record is just as important when considering who will perform your cosmetic procedure.

“We perform surgery in a safe and accredited institution, we have all the inspections and safety checks in place. I think that has tremendous value,” said Shvidler. “If you go outside, you may get a basement bargain, but will there be reassurance that if something goes wrong you will be taken care of in a proper way?”

The patients aren’t the only ones who benefit from the safe, quality health care provided by the facial plastic surgery team at Madigan.

“Because we are a tertiary referral facility and a training institution, we perform cosmetic surgery to train our residents and to keep up certain skills needed in reconstructive surgery. The greatest benefit is the education of next generation surgeons and maintenance of skills,” Shvidler said.

Patients interested in having a cosmetic procedure must first obtain a referral to the ENT/facial plastic surgery clinic from their primary care provider. Once the referral is in, patients may book a consultation with one of the clinic specialists and receive a price quote for treatment.

Doctor Shvidler cautions that not everyone who visits the clinic will be deemed qualified for a procedure or surgery.

“I want to stress that not everyone is a candidate for cosmetic surgery. The most likely reasons people are turned down for surgery are other active health issues, unrealistic expectations, or other psychological issues.”

If approved, the typical wait time for a surgical procedure is two to three months but can be longer depending on availability and priorities of the Army. Payments must be paid in full before treatment. If no appointments are available, patients may be referred out to the network. For more information on any of the services offered at the ENT facial plastic surgery clinic, call 253-968-1420.