Why Taxing Elective Surgery is Not the Answer to Health Care Reform

Why Taxing Elective Surgery is Not the Answer to Health Care Reform

New York Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Jennifer Walden, discusses why taxing elective plastic surgery procedures is not a logical way to fund health care reform efforts. Neil Cavuto of Fox News interviews on this topic.

As we all are well aware, the nation’s health care system is in dire need of reform and cannot continue to support the needs of the American community. Health care costs are on the rise and doctors and patients alike are feeling the pains of the skyrocketing expense. President Obama brought this issue to the forefront of his campaign and is trying to develop a strategy to bring this deficit into prospective. One of the “ideas” presented last week was a new tax on Botox and other plastic surgery procedures. The concept is to place a 10% tax on cosmetic procedures like breast augmentation, rhinoplasty, injectables, and other elective  surgeries. The money generated would be put towards the $1 trillion dollar health care overhaul. Many in Congress have compared this tax to the “sin tax” that is put on cigarettes and alcohol.  We feel there are many, many conflicting issues with this proposal. First, the most obvious is lumping plastic surgery services into the same boat with cigarette usage is absolutely ridiculous. It is well known that cigarettes not just CAN but WILL lead to many forms of cancer and possible death. The strain that cigarette users put on the health care system is also extremely large.  To insinuate a comparison of cigarette and alcohol use to plastic surgery is beyond silly.

Doctors and other health care professionals, not the government, should discern between what procedures are “medically necessary” or not.   But the truth is, many patients who undergo plastic surgery procedures like breast reduction, ear pinning, breast augmentation, and rhinoplasty benefit both psychologically and physically. It is well known that plastic surgery patients are mostly women, so this would end up being a discriminatory move toward women. Also, one of the largest misconceptions about plastic surgery is that it is only the “ultra rich” that undergo these procedures. This generality couldn’t be further from the truth. The plastic surgery patients of today consist of middle class women from the age of 23-65. These women work very hard and save for quite a long time to be able to have these procedures. These are the woman who would ultimately bear the weight of such a decision.

This tax was put into place in New Jersey a few years back and has been a major disappointment. Patients simply got in their cars or on a train to Manhattan to have their surgeries tax free in New York.  Remember, you always have a say in how your government runs the country, so call your local representatives and voice your opinion if you have questions or concerns with health care reform!


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