Vasectomies Are Up, Lasik Is Down

I asked my ophthalmologist on Friday how his business was doing in the recession, and he said it was stable. He noted, however, that his colleagues who specialize in Lasik surgery had seen a 60 percent drop in business.

Clearly, Lasik, which is not reimbursed by most insurance plans, is postponable in times when incomes drop; at least in the short run, it is a luxury good. Other medical procedures may even be inferior goods in the short run. A recent report on NBC noted that there has been a recent rise in vasectomies. Apparently some couples, fearing that their incomes may be permanently lower, wish to minimize the chances of having another child for whom it will be difficult to provide.

We know that plastic surgery is another luxury good. I wonder how one would classify still more medical procedures.


With my complete lack of health insurance, all medical procedures are a luxury for me.


Interesting... I wonder whether the condom market is seeing a similar upswing? Does anyone out there have the IRI data to check this?

DRE at the end of the month!

My GP said business was strong but he suspects people are coming in anticipating that they might be laid off. They want prescriptions for a year and one asked if he could be billed for two visits so his next one would be "free."


I wish I'd had the foresight of these folks -- planning for an uninsured birth is not proving to be a lot of fun.


Related to the rise in vasectomies, IVF is down. Most insurance do not cover it and those that do are quite limited.

Katie Cunningham

I do know that after seeing the cost of having our second child, economics played a big part in deciding not to have a third. However, our first was -also- born during a downturn, and back then, considering a vasectomy wasn't even on the table. Wonder if the numbers are higher for people who have just had two or three kids.


Another idea is that couples are worried about loosing health insurance if their income/job disappears. That was the case for my husband and I when he didn't re-enlist in the military. A lot of our friends were getting vasectomies at that time because we had insurance. We were fearful that the surgery wouldn't happen when we no longer had health insurance.


Heck, I just got married and the economy is making me want to get a vasectomy.


PAP smear = basic care
HPV vaccine= discretionary care


trauma numbers are down in my city. less drunk driving and drunken fights


Lasik seems to also be a skill-intensive procedure, and patients may be wary of physicians growing rusty through lack of practice. So in fact there might be even fewer people in line to get Lasik than the economy alone can account for, making lasik a procyclical good.


Also - though I'm sure we're not approaching it yet (or are we?) there's a certain maximum number of Lasiks that can be done. Once you've gotten one, you aren't a candidate for another one. Eventually, the volumes of people getting them might settle down to a steady state.

Tim Fillin

Fascinating. Your eye doc says that his pals have seen a 60 percent drop in their Lasik business. Does this qualify as a well-documented observationy? Isn't there some sort of national professional organization that can confirm or deny an industry-wide drop of roughly that magnitude, or whall we stick with the "one doc says" method of data-gathering?

One time a kid at camp told me about this guy who had a hook for a hand. Maybe I should publish a research paper on such a well-documented statistic.


In regards to post#2, I believe the correct terminology is that condom sales are in an upschwing. :)

I believe Lasix is an upfront cost that's tough for people but it's actually cheaper than glasses/contacts/etc in the long run. So all they should need to do to keep business up is to offer creative financing that mimics what people spend annually on vision correction now.


Ask your dentist friends - you'll find dental visits up as people rush to get a final cleaning, but both cosmetic and constructive dentistry is way down. Implants, crowns, bridges....hardly any of it is covered, and therefore it's elective = deferred.


How about liposuction ? Some treatment is driven by wants instead of needs. Perhaps, treatment driven by wants will be impervious to the recent economy downturn.

On the side note, the children born in this economy might be fortunate because there will be less competition for college admission . They might have more opportunities than others.


@11 People who do Lasik don't do a couple a year. The procedure is only about 15 minutes long, and the machines are expensive, so most surgeons will do several a week.


Because of this financial crisis, even necessary medical expenses without insurance cover, becomes luxury for many people. The article shows how the economy could affect the health care sector directly! Good reading!!

David T

A friend just had some major face work done since it seems that this kind of service is on sale at big discounts now due to a drop off in business. My wife is also pushing to get work done now while it is relatively cheap!


The sample set is too small.
No offence but I also think that the explanation is not very convincing.
are the prices of both these things comparable?