Senate's Historical Health Care Bill Passes With The 'Botax'

Last Saturday, Senate narrowly but successfully passed a momentous health care reform bill, which will now be subjected to a heated legislation debate. Among the tax provisions included in the bill is a cosmetic surgery excise tax, which we originally told you about when it was merely an interesting idea in its infancy. It would tack on a 5% tax-lower than originally proposed-to any procedure considered optional and not medically necessary, from Botox to breast augmentation.

Although many people accept this so-called Botax as a necessity for making health care reform a reality, others take exception to it, including patients (past and potential) and plastic surgeons, many of whom feel this is a tax on middle-class women.

"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," Renato Saltz, MD, President of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, said in a joint statement with the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, whose own president agrees.

"Elective surgery taxes discriminate against women, given that 86% of cosmetic surgery patients are female, of which 91% are between the working ages of 19-64," said ASPS President Michael McGuire, MD. "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."

Members of both societies are also concerned that the auditors who would draw the distinction between cosmetic and reconstructive procedures and make the decision as to whether or not a procedure should be taxed are not trained to identify the often subtle differences. Doctors fear this may lead to patients being taxed for a procedure with medical benefits.

If the bill becomes law with the inclusion of the cosmetic surgery tax, it is expected to contribute more than $5 billion towards the cost of health care reform over the next 10 years. The ambitious bill would make major changes to the condition of American health care by, among many measures, extending coverage to 31 million citizens who currently do not have it and disallowing insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

How do you feel about the Botax? Is it unacceptably discriminatory? Is it necessary to make much-needed health care reform happen? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.