COST OF TREATMENT
Paying for SK Treatment
Most people with SKs who see a doctor will be told that there is no medical reason to treat the lesions. They are advised that they have to pay out-of-pocket for SK treatment because insurance plans do not cover the cost of treatments that are not “medically necessary.” This news can be quite discouraging to people who are bothered by ugly and unwanted SKs! Many do proceed with treatment though, motivated by the fact that once SKs are cleared, they do not come back.
If you are considering treatment, keep in mind that costs can vary widely among dermatologists. You may want to talk to your dermatologist about what you are willing to pay before starting treatment, especially if you want several SKs removed.
Some dermatology practices charge by the lesion and may factor in its size and location on the body. Others charge by the session, with a cap on the number of lesions removed during that session. Even accounting for these different fee models, prices run the gamut. For instance, the fee to remove just one large lesion can range from $75 to $175.* Shave removal generally costs more than the other procedures because cutting the skin involves an anesthetic for pain beforehand and wound care afterward. Electrodesiccation also tends to cost more because it is more time and labor-intensive.
On the bargain end of the spectrum, some doctors charge only $120 to treat about a dozen SKs with cryosurgery (freezing). However, be aware that cryosurgery may involve more than one treatment to completely clear an SK. Dr. Leslie Baumann, a board-certified dermatologist in private practice in Miami Beach, FL, explains that she freezes each SK very lightly because this lowers the chance of leaving a scar or permanent white spot. Most of her SK patients need more than one treatment visit. “My patients expect excellent aesthetic results so I explain to them that it is better to undertreat and have to do it again than to leave a white mark. Once a white mark occurs there is no way to put pigment back in the skin.” says Dr. Baumann.
In a survey conducted in 2014, 251 dermatologists across the United States were asked about their fees for treating “typical” SKs, across all treatment methods. The results were:
Number of SKs Treated
Regional differences in fees can be significant, with higher fees on the East Coast, West Coast, and major metropolitan areas and lower fees in other areas of the country.Ɨ If more than one visit is required to completely clear the SKs, patients may pay the fee at each visit.
Though most people with SKs who see a doctor learn that treatment is not medically necessary, sometimes doctors do recommend treatment for a medical reason. Examples of this are situations where one or a few lesions:
- Look suspicious enough to the doctor to warrant a biopsy to confirm whether they are in fact seborrheic keratosis or some form of skin cancer.
- Are irritated or inflamed; itch or bleed or cause pain.
Most insurance plans will cover the cost (or a portion of the cost) of treatment in these cases, but patients may still have co-payments, co-insurance, and deductibles to pay.
If you do have a few SKs that tend to get itchy or inflamed, perhaps due to their location–clustered beneath a bra strap, for example–then ask your doctor about them. Your doctor will document in your chart that they are inflamed and submit the treatment to insurance for reimbursement. You can check with your health plan in advance of your appointment to understand the details of your policy with respect to coverage for removal of an inflamed seborrheic keratosis.
The upshot: Removing SKs can be expensive, and you might want to do a little research before you move forward with treatment. Keep in mind, though, it’s important to get treatment from an experienced and trained professional, like a dermatologist. Side effects, such as permanent hypopigmentation, scarring, and infection are always a possibility but can be reduced when treatment is provided by a skilled practitioner.
*Data on file, Aclaris Therapeutics, Inc.