Like Jaguars and Mercedes, cosmetic surgery has been considered an indulgence of the rich - and sometimes the famous.

The reason is simple: Most aesthetic procedures are not covered by insurance.But Utah plastic surgeons say their fees are reasonable. In fact, they maintain, members of middle income families can now afford cosmetic surgery.

"Utah cosmetic surgery prices are the lowest in the country. Prices across the board in Los Angeles, New York and Miami are twice as much," said Dr. Larry G. Leonard, a plastic surgeon in private practice in Salt Lake City.

The relatively lower cost of malpractice insurance and business expenses have kept costs down for high-tech operations.

But Dr. Gary R. Hunter, president of the Utah State Plastic Surgery Society, maintains that quality and quantity have remained high. More and more consumers are paying less for the best.

There's evidence. An increasing number of people from around the Intermountain Area are coming to Utah for cosmetic surgery.

Innovative means of financing the procedures have made the procedures more accessible.

Dr. Thomas Ray Broadbent, director of LDS Hospital's cosmetic surgery information center, has been among the leading innovators.

Cosmetic patients can obtain interest-free loans through LDS Hospital if their bill is paid within six months.

Cosmetic surgery at Alta View Hospital, too, has become increasingly affordable.

The cost of cosmetic procedures can be financed with a down payment and monthly payments. As with traditional credit purchases, the percent of interest rate and terms depend on the amount and length of the loan period.