AMA: Plastic Surgery Tax Won’t Help Illinois Stem Cell Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 20, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

AMA: Plastic Surgery Tax Won’t Help Illinois Stem Cell Research Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 20, 2005

Springfield, IL ( — Nine states around the country are considering taxes on cosmetic surgery, including Illinois, which hopes to use the proceeds to pay for embryonic stem cell research. However, the American Medical Association has come out against the taxes saying they don’t raise much money and are discriminatory.

Members of the AMA held a meeting over the weekend in Chicago and a resolution passed their indicated taxing such procedures "sets a troubling precedent for the taxation of additional medical procedures."

An AMA committee passed the resolution unanimously and without debate and the full AMA House of Delegates is expected to approve it later this week.

The motion adds another hurdle for Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes to overcome. He’s proposed a 6 percent tax on cosmetic surgery to pay for legislation that would use $1billion in public funds for grants for unproven embryonic stem cell research.

The cosmetic surgery tax helped stop the bill this spring as House Minority Leader Tom Cross, a Republican complained and said many lawmakers worried about the state legislature approving another tax increase.

"People don’t like the tax. A lot of people just have a problem with stem cell research," Cross told the Pantagraph newspaper.

Without the tax, the legislation would encourage the state to support embryonic stem cell research, but would not use public funds to pay for grants to scientists or research universities.

Cross told the Chicago Sun Times newspaper that the bill may be brought back later in another form that doesn’t include the tax.

Americans spent $8.4 billion on 9.2 million cosmetic surgery procedures last year, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, but states that tax them aren’t bringing in much money.

In New Jersey, the only state with such a tax on the books, Dr. Robert Jackson of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery says revenues have fallen 75 percent short of expectations.

He said the tax is also seen as discriminating against women, who have 85 percent of all cosmetic surgery procedures. It also discriminates against those who need cosmetic surgery for medical reasons.

Doctors involved in the cosmetic surgery community in Illinois have lobbied against the tax.

Dr. Jeffrey Poulter, founder of Bloomington’s Center for Cosmetic and Laser Surgery, told the Bloomington newspaper that a letter-writing campaign had been organized by those in the industry to defeat the tax.

Hynes spokesman Alan Henry said he would still try to find a way to obtain funding for the proposal, though he did not say what alternatives Hynes is considering.

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved the measure, with the tax, in March.

Embryonic stem cell research has not resulted in any successful treatments so far. In fact, a number of physicians have concluded that initial trials have been disastrous.