Proposed plastic surgery tax in U.S. could enhance medical tourism

November 27, 2009

There´s at least one sector celebrating a proposed tax on plastic surgery in the United States, and that´s the people who cater to medical tourism.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of North Americans look offshore for tummy tucks, facelifts and breast enhancements, knowing they can pay a fraction of the costs they would have to fork over in the United States.

Costa Rica, a three-hour flight from the U.S., has absorbed a large percentage of patients and, with the addition of the proposed tax, medical experts expect a greater influx.

The 5 percent tax on elective cosmetic procedures was proposed as part of the 2,074-page health reform bill presented by the U.S. Democratic Party this month. The tax is expected to generate $5.8 billion to help fund the $849 billion health system overhaul.

But plastic surgeons in the United States have launched a campaign to prevent the tax, arguing that its effects would result in discrimination against women, who represent 86 percent of cosmetic surgery patients there.

“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,” said Dr. Renato Saltz, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). “As doctors, we understand and appreciate the need for health care reform, but taxing physicians and cosmetic surgery procedures to pay for the reform is not realistic or beneficial.”

ASPS noted that only 10 percent of the respondents on a recent survey reported a household income of over $90,000, “which clearly refutes the suggestion that elective surgery taxes are ‘luxury or ‘sin´ taxes affecting a privileged few,” according to a statement released earlier this month.

The bill was given a nod by the Senate on Saturday, Nov. 21 and will is currently awaiting further debate.

See the Dec. 4 print or digital edition of The Tico Times for more on this story.

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