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What Cosmetic Surgery Innovation Can Teach Us About Healthcare Costs

Blog Post | Cost of Services

What Cosmetic Surgery Innovation Can Teach Us About Healthcare Costs

The average time price of 19 procedures has fallen by 50 percent since 1998.

Summary: Hospital services costs have surged, raising questions about the effectiveness of regulation and government intervention in the healthcare industry. To investigate the potential impact of free markets on cost trends, we examined the time prices of common cosmetic surgery procedures, which are elective and typically not covered by insurance. Our analysis reveals a significant decline in the relative time prices of these procedures, indicating increased abundance driven by innovation and market competition.


This article was published at Gale Winds on 2/21/2024.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that since 1998, hospital services costs have increased 61 percent faster than average wages and far outpaced consumer price index inflation. This industry is highly regulated, and government restricts supply and subsidizes demand.

Would free markets help to reverse these cost trends? To answer this question, we looked at the time prices of 19 common cosmetic surgery procedures. These procedures are elective, and insurance companies typically don’t provide reimbursements. Cosmetic surgeons also have been relatively free to innovate, and cosmetic surgery centers are globally competitive.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons annually publishes prices for a variety of procedures. We compared the nominal prices from 1998 to 2022 against the average hourly wage rates of unskilled and blue-collar workers. This gave us relative time prices over time.

The average time price fell by 50.3 percent over this 24-year period. For the time it took to earn the money to pay for one procedure in 1998, you could get over two procedures today. Procedure abundance has increased by over 100 percent. The time price of chemical peels and laser hair removal fell the fastest by 87.7 percent and 80.1 percent, respectively. However, two procedure costs increased: upper arm lifts increased by 6.7 percent and facelifts by 1.6 percent.

Bar chart displaying Nominal hourly wage rates from 1998 to 2022

The above analysis compares categories of wage earners over time, but what about individuals? We typically start as unskilled workers and then advance as we acquire more productive skills, knowledge, and experience. Categories remain constant while individuals are upwardly mobile. If we look at an unskilled worker who “upskilled” to a blue-collar worker, cosmetic surgery procedures have become dramatically more abundant.

From 1998 to 2022, nominal unskilled hourly wages increased by 102.8 percent, while blue-collar hourly compensation increased by 91.2 percent. The average between these two categories is 94.7 percent. If you started out in 1998 as an unskilled worker and moved up to a blue-collar worker, your nominal hourly compensation increased by 348.5 percent.

Comparing an upskilling worker’s hourly compensation to the prices of cosmetic procedures indicates that the average time price fell by 78.4 percent. These workers could get 4.63 procedures in 2022 for the time price of one in 1998. Personal cosmetic surgery abundance increased by 363.5 percent for upskilling workers, growing at a 6.6 percent compound annual rate, doubling every 11 years or so.

Blog Post | Cost of Material Goods

The Good Old Days Were Really Expensive

Most things are more abundant and affordable today.

If you had a dime in 1900, you could buy a 1-ounce Hershey chocolate bar and a 6.5-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola. It sounds like those were happy days indeed. That is until you look at wages, which were around 14 cents an hour for blue-collar workers.

At Walmart today, a 1.55-ounce Hershey bar costs $1.17 and a 1.25-liter bottle (42.27 ounces) of Coke is $1.52. Blue-collar workers earn closer to $36.15 an hour in compensation.

We buy things with money but pay for them with our time. Money prices are expressed in dollars and cents, while time prices are expressed in hours and minutes. A time price is simply the money price divided by hourly income.

In 1900, it took more than 21.4 minutes to earn an ounce of chocolate and 3.3 minutes for an ounce of Coca-Cola. By 2023, the chocolate time price had fallen to 1.25 minutes, and sodas were down to 0.06 minutes (3.58 seconds).

Chocolate cost fell 94.2 percent while cola cost fell 98.2 percent. For the time required to earn 1 ounce of chocolate in 1900, you get 17.1 ounces today, and for the time required to earn 1 ounce of Coca-Cola in 1900, you get 55.2 ounces today. Chocolate is 1,611 percent more abundant while cola is 5,425 percent more abundant.

Things can get more expensive and more affordable at the same time. This is why you must always compare prices to wages to see the true price, which is how much time things cost you.

This article was published at Gale Winds on 3/19/2024.

Wall Street Journal | Infrastructure & Transportation

Tesla to Unveil Robotaxi in August, Elon Musk Says

“Tesla plans to unveil its Robotaxi in August, the latest step in the company’s multiyear effort to bring self-driving vehicles to market.

Chief Executive Elon Musk said in a post on X that the Tesla model without a steering wheel or pedals would be shown to the world on Aug. 8.”

From Wall Street Journal.

BusinessMirror | Poverty Rates

PHL Could Hit Single-Digit Poverty Years Ahead of Schedule

“Better labor market conditions and slower inflation in the country could turn the administration’s single-digit poverty incidence aspirations into a reality two years ahead of schedule.

This was according to the latest Macro Poverty Outlook for the Philippines, released by the World Bank on Monday. It estimated that poverty incidence in the country could decrease to 9.3 percent in 2026 from 12.2 percent this year and 17.8 percent in 2021.”

From BusinessMirror.