Look – I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a frequent or even occasional visitor to the tanning salon. Any tan I have usually ends where my bicycle shorts and t-shirt sleeves start and my eyes often peer out of twin white rings resulting from the protection of polarized sunglasses. However, I’m still going to go to bat for the tanning salon and put it high on the list of problems to fix after the Senate passes its health care bill and it heads to conference.
What does the tanning salon have to do with the health care bill? It’s all in the financing of reform. Both the House and Senate squeeze significant savings from Medicare but the Senate imposes a tax on very expensive health plans and people making over $200,000. In addition the Senate requires payments from a variety of health care industry players. I like the House’s financing approach far, far better – just stick a surtax on households with incomes over $1,000,000 a year to provide almost all the financing in addition to the Medicare changes. It’s simpler and fairer.
The tanning salons came in for a beating at the end in the Senate bill. A small part of the Senate’s plan to finance health reform was to impose a 5% tax on cosmetic surgery. All those plastic surgeons objected and so that tax was eliminated and a new one instituted on tanning salons. This just illustrates why the House financing approach is so much better. When you start picking and choosing among this group and that group it creates resentment and doesn’t look fair. I mean, come on – who has the bigger cash war chest to lobby Congress? The cosmetic surgeons or the small business owners who operate tanning salons?
Let’s talk health risks. No one seems too exercised about the risks of unnecessary elective surgery, by definition cosmetic. And if we want to change behavior with a tax, why not hit up sugary soft drinks? There’s plenty research on their role in our obesity epidemic among kids and the resulting high health costs.
So, let’s stop picking on some of the very small businesses that we are trying to help with reform and fix this problem with the Senate bill. Better yet, let’s go with the House financing plan in conference.