Some procedures are getting cheaper. The biggest winner is laser hair removal, with the price falling almost by half from 1998 to 2015. (Probably less painful than getting a bikini wax. Not that I have any experience with either procedure.) Botox injections, chemical peels, and eyelid surgeries are about 25 percent cheaper. Other cosmetic surgeries have increased in price, perhaps because surgeons have the option of performing surgeries covered by insurance and government programs.
To what extent, though, are the opportunities for surgeons to perform cosmetic surgeries in relatively private markets affecting the supply of surgeons to perform more conventional procedures in the third-party payment markets?
That we don't yet know, but Mr Perry's observations are instructive.
Cosmetic procedures, unlike most medical services, are not usually covered by insurance. Patients paying out-of-pocket for cosmetic procedures are cost-conscious, and have strong incentives to shop around and compare prices at the dozens of competing providers in any large city. Because of that market competition, the prices of almost all cosmetic procedures have fallen in real terms since 1998, and some non-surgical procedures have even fallen in nominal dollars before adjusting for price changes. In all cases, cosmetic procedures have increased in price by less than the 93% increase in the price of medical care services between 1998 and 2015.In this way, services that used to be available only to the vain rich are now available to vain people of more modest means. The generalization to services that might not be so frivolous is left as an exercise.