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STATE | ASPS Activates Ohio Members in Opposition to Cosmetic Tax Proposal

On January 30, Governor John Kasich (R) announced his proposed budget, which focuses on significantly lowering the personal income tax rate in the state. However, this is only possible if Ohio finds other ways to generate income, which led to the proposal of a 6.25% sales tax on all elective surgical procedures, similar to the tax that exists in Connecticut and was enacted and repealed in New Jersey.

Within hours of learning of the tax, ASPS launched a grassroots advocacy alert calling on all Ohio ASPS members to request that the tax be removed from the budget. This was followed by a February 8 petition to the Ohio House Finance Committee that was signed by 58 ASPS members in the state. Both the initial grassroots alert and the petition were cosponsored by the Ohio Valley Society of Plastic Surgeons (OVSPS).

The Ohio House Finance Committee is currently considering Kasich's budget proposals and is hosting a series of hearings with various department heads and special interest groups. During a recent hearing, the Ohio Tax Commissioner, Joe Testa, reported that the cosmetic tax is projected to raise $25 million over the first two years. ASPS President Debra Johnson, MD; ASAPS President Dan Mills, II, MD; and OVSPS leaders Vu Nguyen, MD and Steven Bernard, MD, penned a letter to the Finance Committee that detailed how this tax will be discriminatory, economically damaging and fiscally unsound.

In their letter, Drs. Johnson, Mills, Nguyen and Bernard highlighted the clear failures of the tax in New Jersey, where actual revenue fell 70% short of projections. They also showed the economic damage done by the tax by referencing a 2010 independent economic analysis by the Jasos Group, LLC which revealed that New Jersey lost $2.94 for every $1.00 the state raised due to surgical flight to neighboring states. ASPS, ASAPS and OVSPS leaders also commented on the subjective nature of the tax, potential HIPAA violations due to auditing and the discriminatory nature of the tax against women and the middle class.

In addition to its member-led grassroots advocacy, ASPS also activated the Stop Medical Taxes Coalition, which has successfully opposed this measure in other states, including a 2015 attempt in Maine. With advisement from the Ohio State Medical Association, the coalition is coordinating engagement efforts and working on a collective strategy to remove the tax from the budget while under consideration in the legislature. The coalition in Ohio includes:

  • American Academy of Dermatology
  • American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
  • American Academy of Otolaryngology
  • American College of Surgeons
  • American Medical Association
  • American Osteopathic Association
  • American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery
  • American Society for Dermatological Surgery Association
  • American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery
  • Ohio Chapter of the American College of Surgeons
  • Ohio Osteopathic Association
  • Ohio Valley Society of Plastic Surgeons

ASPS will continue to keep members in Ohio informed about any changes to the state budget, as well as opportunities to engage and voice concerns to state representatives in the legislature.