Why the Cosmetic Surgery Tax is a bad idea-

The Center for Cosmetic Surgery

As you may have heard, Congress is considering the imposition of a 5% tax on elective cosmetic surgical procedures to help pay for the increased costs that would be incurred by the current health care reform legislation.  This “Botax”, as it has come to be known in some circles, would also include injectibles such as Botox/Dysport, Juvederm, etc.  Why is this a bad idea?  Where do I start?

First of all, this tax has nothing at all to do with reducing the costs of health care, nor does it involve the promotion of healthy lifestyle choices.  It is simply a grab for money from people that Congress considers easy targets. (“If they can afford a facelift, they can afford an additional 5%”, or something like that.)  Some people think that everyone having Plastic Surgery is rich, and indeed some are.  But what about the 40-year-old divorced mother of three who has saved for years to pay for her tummy tuck so she can feel better about herself?  Can, and should, she pay 5% more?

In truth, this tax would be an unfair burden on a population that is overwhelmingly female (91%), and predominantly middle class (According the the ASPS, only 10% of those considering a cosmetic medical procedure earn more than $90k per year.)  The tax would turn us into tax collectors, and would be impossible to fairly and accurately administer.  Is a 1000 gram breast reduction cosmetic?  Certainly not.  What about 500 gm?  250??  Who decides?  Shouldn’t we also tax Propecia and Viagra while we’re at it, or would that his a little too close to home for some of our elected officials?

The stated goal of health care reform is to “provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance, coverage for those who don’t, and to lower the cost of health care for our families, our businesses, and our government.”  Can someone explain to me how the cosmetic surgery tax contributes to this?

Dr. Wolfe

UPDATE 12/21/2009********************

It appears that the cosmetic surgery tax has been removed from the health care reform legislation!  An aggressive lobbying effort from a number of companies, especially Allergan (makers of Botox), has apparently persuaded the senate to drop the provision.  Instead, there will be a tax on tanning booths, and an increase in Medicare payroll taxes.

2 Responses to Why the Cosmetic Surgery Tax is a bad idea-

  • Pam McMaster says:

    I couldn’t agree more with Dr. Wolfe on this issue. In fact, I recently signed a petition AND wrote to my senator and congressman regarding this subject. One of the things I highlighted in my letter was, in fact, that the vast majority of individuals seeking cosmetic surgery and/or treatments are NOT part of the elite economic sector. They are “average” consumers. By taxing a procedure for which they – in theory – have already saved dearly for might, in fact, prevent them from pursuing it. Far worse than that even, would be for them to seek treatment that is highly questionable (and perhaps would cause injury) because it appears more affordable. This tax will likely create the OPPOSITE effect that our elected officials seem to be seeking here – to generate more revenue for the government. By taking away the opportunity for those who might otherwise seek – and receive – cosmetic surgery, this will in turn, reduce the spending power of the individuals – including the surgeons – who would staff these surgeries. This then translates to even less stimulus to our already suffering economy — and hasn’t provided any benefit to American health care, either.

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