Vanity Tax Would Be Unfair to Women

Political blogs and news providers around the country are buzzing about the idea of a cosmetic surgery tax being introduced to finance health care reform.

Writers of the Speaker’s Lobby say the idea came from a treasury department official, and that 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 reports the tax would be a 10% charge tacked onto elective procedures like a liposuction, breast augmentation, a facelift and other popular cosmetic enhancements.

Two strong objections can be leveled 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 New York Times story by Natasha Singer titled “Who Is the Real Face of Plastic Surgery?” in which Ms. Singer discussed the fact that a large number of patients choose to finance cosmetic 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.”