The possibility of a new cosmetic surgery tax, intended to finance health care reform, had many news outlets buzzing today.
According to The Speaker’s Lobby, a FOX News blog, the idea came from a treasury department official, but it sounds as if the tax proposal is “off the table” for now. Apparently, most finance committee members are not even aware of the tax proposal. LA Times blog Top of the Ticket claims the tax would be introduced as a ten percent charge that would be tacked onto elective procedures like a tummy tuck, breast augmentation, rhinoplasty, and other popular cosmetic enhancements.
There are two strong objections that those of us in the industry would level against this proposal. First and foremost, such a tax would be paid almost entirely by women. Despite the growing popularity of cosmetic procedures for men, women still make up over 90 percent of the patient demographic in the United States. Obviously, imposing a tax such as the one in question would unfairly discriminate against women. Think about it this way: would a tax be imposed on men who purchase expensive tattoos, fashionable clothing, or bodybuilding equipment? It doesn’t seem likely.
Second, a common misconception that’s probably at work here (which may have been true in the past) is that only the rich and famous pursue cosmetic surgery. Maybe you can remember the NY Times story by Natasha Singer titled “Who Is the Real Face of Plastic Surgery?” Ms. Singer discussed the fact that a large number of patients choose to finance surgery, just as they would a new car. Also, let’s not forget the 2004 survey conducted by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons; it revealed that nearly “a third of people considering plastic surgery reported average household incomes below $30,000.”