(For more on U.S. healthcare reform, click [ID:nN20512341])
* 'Botax' out of Senate bill; tanning tax in
* Surgeons, Botox maker fought cosmetic surgery tax
* Final plan to be worked out by House and Senate
By Lisa Richwine
WASHINGTON, Dec 21 In the rush to fund a U.S.
healthcare overhaul, Botox injections to smooth wrinkles will
not be taxed, but visiting a tanning salon will be.
Plastic surgeons and Botox maker Allergan Inc (AGN.N)
successfully fought a proposed 5 percent tax on breast
implants, face-lifts and other elective cosmetic procedures in
Senate Democrats' healthcare legislation.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid dropped that plan,
nicknamed the "Botax" after the popular wrinkle fighter, in
changes released on Saturday. It was replaced it with a 10
percent tax on indoor tanning services.
California-based Allergan launched a major offensive
against the Botax plan after it was included as a late addition
to the Senate's healthcare reform bill in November.
Allergan Chief Executive David Pyott personally raised
objections with lawmakers and the company launched a website
and Facebook page to rally tax opponents. The website called
the plan "a tax on self-improvement."
Plastic surgeons also lobbied heavily against the Botax.
They argued the tax would unfairly hit middle-class, working
women who make up a large portion of their patients, not just
"The lobbying was fierce and intense," particularly from
physician groups, said Capitol Street analyst Ipsita
Senators likely decided they did not want to anger doctors
whose support they want for the final healthcare bill, she
said. Doctors are pushing for changes to Medicare payments that
are not included in the Senate bill.
"At the end of the day, you have doctors that are jumping
up and down about a provision. Why not take it out if they can
plug the hole with something else?" Smolinksi said.
Tanning beds were seen as an easier target because the Food
and Drug Administration has warned about cancer risks from the
beds' ultraviolet rays, she said.
John Overstreet, executive director of the Indoor Tanning
Association, said "there are risks to practically anything you
do. I don't think that's a good reason to tax a business out of
An estimated 20,000 tanning salons operate in the United
States and most are small businesses, he said. Hair salons,
spas and other businesses also offer tanning services.
If enacted, the tax will further harm tanning business that
has declined during the economic recession, Overstreet said.
Adding the tax "is the kind of stuff that can put a lot of
these people out of business," he said.
The Senate healthcare legislation includes taxes and other
concessions on various industries ranging from drugmakers and
medical device companies to hospitals and health insurers. The
funds are meant to pay for wider insurance coverage and other
changes in a $871 billion overhaul.
The tanning tax would raise an estimated $2.7 billion
through 10 years. The cosmetic surgery tax had been projected
to raise roughly $5 billion.
The Democratic-led Senate is aiming for a final vote on the
bill by Christmas. The measure will need to be merged with
legislation in the Democratic-led House of Representatives,
which does not include either tax.
Reid spokesman Jim Manley said senators "worked very hard
to be fair" and the healthcare bill was a "net tax cut for the
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; editing by Andre Grenon)