Surprise Addition to Healthcare Bill is Arbitrary, Difficult to Administer

Arlington Heights, IL and New York, NY - Late yesterday, democratic leaders in the Senate unveiled their proposal for overhauling the health care system, which included a new 5% tax on elective cosmetic procedures. Senate Democrats argue that the tax, which was a surprise addition to the sweeping 2,074-page bill, will generate $5.8 billion over the next 10 years to be put towards the bill's estimated $849 billion price tag. However, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) and the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) oppose this tax as discriminatory, arbitrary and ineffective.

"Elective surgery taxes discriminate against women, given that 86 percent of cosmetic surgery patients are female, of which 91 percent are between the working ages of 19-64," said Michael McGuire, MD, ASPS President. "Moreover, contrary to popular belief, cosmetic surgery is no longer an exclusive luxury afforded by the very wealthy, but rather a mainstream and reasonable option most common amongst the working middle-class."

"This tax is effectively a "Soccer Mom" tax that will adversely impact mainstream American wives and mothers, who are the majority of plastic surgery patients," said Renato Saltz, MD, President of ASAPS. "As doctors, we understand and appreciate the need for health care reform, but taxing physicians and cosmetic surgery procedures to pay for the reform is not realistic or beneficial,"

In a 2005 ASPS survey of people planning to have cosmetic surgery within the next two years, 60% of respondents reported an annual household income of $30,000-$90,000 a year. Most importantly, 40% of those reported a household income of only $30,000-$60,000. Only 10% of respondents reported a household income of over $90,000, which clearly refutes the suggestion that elective surgery taxes are "luxury" or "sin" taxes affecting a privileged few.

The Societies also contend that such taxes have been proven arbitrary and difficult to administer as evidence by the experience in New Jersey, the only state to have imposed a cosmetic tax. Since it passed a 6% tax on elective medical procedures in 2004, the NJ Department of Taxation has experienced a 59% shortfall based on projected revenue estimates. Eight other states have considered similar tax legislation- and they all wisely rejected them.

Finally, though the bill claims that the only procedures that would be taxed are those that are "not necessary to ameliorate a deformity arising from, or directly related to, a congenital abnormality, a personal injury resulting from an accident or trauma, or a disfiguring disease," The Societies contend that such distinctions aren't always obvious. Because the line between ‘cosmetic' and ‘reconstructive' surgery is not always clear, such a tax would leave the determination of medical necessity up to state tax auditors - a completely inappropriate proposition.

"As doctors our first concern always needs to be patient safety," said Dr. Saltz, "for those patients here in this country, as well as those patients who may now be encouraged by this tax to obtain their procedures abroad."

"The ASPS has, and continues to oppose all taxes on physicians, in any and all forms, due to their deleterious effects on health care costs and access to patient care," said Dr. McGuire. "Medical care should not be used as a tool to fix broken finances."

About ASPS

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) is the world's largest organization of board-certified plastic surgeons. Representing more than 7,000 Member Surgeons, the Society is recognized as a leading authority and information source on aesthetic and reconstructive plastic surgery. ASPS comprises more than 94 percent of all board-certified plastic surgeons in the United States. Founded in 1931, the Society represents physicians certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery or The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. ASPS advances quality care to plastic surgery patients by encouraging high standards of training, ethics, physician practice and research in plastic surgery. 

Contact ASPS

Media Relations
(847) 228-9900
media@plasticsurgery.org