Connie Prater

Plastic surgery and credit cards a good mix?

My heart goes out to the family and friends of the 18-year-old South Florida girl who died this week, apparently from complications of anesthesia during breast augmentation surgery. As the news article about her death points out, breast and other cosmetic procedures are growing in popularity. Baby boomer parents often give their teen daughters cosmetic procedures as high school or college graduation gifts.

Another news report caught my eye: the release from jail of an Argentine plastic surgeon who reportedly botched cosmetic procedures on Priscilla Presley and other Hollywood celebs.

Plastic for plastic (surgery)
I'm mentioning this because the vast majority of these cosmetic procedures are financed via credit cards or installment loans. Even minor cosmetic "enhancements" performed in salons across the globe are often charged on credit cards. As our special report on health care financing points out, credit card issuers are launching new options for paying for elective as well as essential health care needs. JP Morgan Chase was the most recent to enter the health care finance arena. Others are sure to follow in the coming months.

But consumer advocates warn against rushing to put health care costs on credit cards -- even if terms such as 0 percent financing for fixed time periods are more consumer friendly than traditional credit card terms. The reason: Making financial decisions at times when we're emotionally unstable -- such as when facing a serious medical crisis or when driven by low self-esteem about our body image -- is generally not a good idea.

Taking time to consider the options
Our easy credit culture has made it easier and more convenient for us to do a variety of things. Perhaps if we had to take time to save the money to pay for these procedures we could use that time to think about whether we should go through with them in the first place.

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