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New Health Care Plan Includes a Tax on Cosmetic Procedures

Posted: November 20, 2009

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Easy target

The plastic surgeons may have seemed like an appealing bunch to pick on given that they had already been skeptical of the Democrats' overhaul proposal. But they say it will be a blow to countless American women—of every income level.

"The common misconception is that this is going to tax wealthy, suburban Republican women," said Phil Haeck, MD, of Seattle, Washington, the president-elect of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. In fact, he said, of the 86% of cosmetic surgery patients who are female, 60% of them have incomes between $30,000–90,000.

In addition, he said the tax would be especially hurtful in tough economic times that have prompted many newly jobless women to look for ways to make themselves more marketable to prospective employers. He said, "They're competing with people 10 to 15 years younger than them and they want to look better."

The emergence of the tax in the latest Senate health legislation shows what can happen when an industry or company that's in Congress' cross-hairs isn't vigilant enough. Daniel Russo, MD, the Birmingham, Alabama, plastic surgeon who heads the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, said his group first heard of the cosmetic procedure tax idea over the summer. But after being assured by several lawmakers and senior congressional aides that it was not being seriously considered, the group opted not to engage in a major lobbying battle against it, he said.