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Financing a fresher face

After four children and more than a decade outside the paid workforce, Anya Simpson was ready for a fresh start. However, the deep lines across her brow, crinkles around the eyes and a body where things didn't quite sit where they used to, left her feeling "faded" and self-conscious. "When I looked in the mirror I just didn't see the person I thought I was -- it was depressing."

The Toronto woman, who asked that we change her name, did her research, settled on a plastic surgeon and after a preliminary visit learned it would cost about $7,500 for the combination of treatments she "needed." The 38-year-old didn't have the cash, so she applied to Medicard for financing.

Formed in 1996, the Toronto-based company provides health-related financing for elective medical procedures; more than 60 per cent of its loans are for cosmetic enhancement procedures. Doctors are paid in full and clients pay back monthly in terms that range from six months to five years.

Beauty on a budget
"The notion that cosmetic plastic surgery is only for the rich and famous went out the window a long time ago," says Dr. Martin Jugenburg, a board certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon at the Toronto Cosmetic Surgery Institute located inside the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto. "Over time the view on cosmetic plastic surgery has changed. Gone are the days when people would secretly sneak in to a plastic surgeon's office terrified of being seen there. Today, getting a cosmetic surgery procedure is normal and accepted."

He credits the change in attitude to reality TV shows highlighting plastic surgery. Statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons show that every year, with the exception of the economic meltdown in 2008-2009, there has been a dramatic increase in people having cosmetic surgery procedures. Last year there were 13.8 million cosmetic procedures performed in the U.S., and while there are no similar statistics for Canada, our numbers are thought to be around about 1/10 of U.S. figures.

Financing made easy
A representative at Dr. Mitchell Brown's office in downtown Toronto says people from all walks of life come through their door looking for quotes and financing options. While most people pay outright or put it on their credit card, 10 to 15 per cent deal with one of two independent financing companies, Medicard and Credit Medical Corporation.

Jugenburg says patients sometimes postpone surgery by a few months so they can save up, however about 20 per cent of patients seek special financing for all or a portion of the cost. "This makes cosmetic surgery very accessible to virtually anyone. You don't have to own a yacht or mortgage your house to look great."

Medical-related financing is available to those with stable incomes and good credit rating. Interest rates tend to range from 9 per cent to more than 20 per cent depending on your credit score. Often a line of credit offers a less expensive option.

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-- Posted April 11, 2012
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