The Hill reports that a once-controversial provision of the Affordable Care Act that adds a ten percent tax to indoor tanning sessions will soon become permanent. That's good news for Obamacare, which will garner an estimate $2.7 billion in revenue every ten years from the move. And it's bad news for people who don't want to pay slightly more for a tanning session.
We were curious about how many tanning sessions resulted in that $2.7 billion. No one at The Atlantic Wire appears to be a tanning salon customer (the rainy spring would probably betray anyone who was). So we decided to look at costs for the most famous tanner in the world: the New Jersey Tan Mom.
Patricia Krentcil lives in Nutley, New Jersey. In Nutley, one finds City Tropics Tanning. City Tropics offers a range of services, ranging in cost from $16 for a session to a $99 30-day unlimited pass, which certain local mothers might have found economical. Averaging the one-time costs, we get $25.50 per session. Ten percent of $25.50 is $2.55. So how many $25.50 sessions would generate $2.7 billion in taxes?
That's 1.058 billion. 1.058 billion tanning sessions each decade. Over 100 million a year. It's enough to give a dermatologist an arrhythmia.
Earlier this month, The New York Times reported on the vastly different prices around the country for various medical procedures. We were curious how many tanning sessions it would take to offset those costs. And so:
The president would probably argue that part of the point of his healthcare plan is to reduce the costs of those procedures. But if he isn't successful, tanning salon patrons will need 527 single sessions in order to off-set someone's colonoscopy. The Hippocratic oath: First, do no harm; second, lay down a base tan.
There is one tanning-like procedure that the IRS exempts from paying the tax: phototherapy service. From its FAQ:
What is phototherapy service?
A. Phototherapy service is a service which exposes an individual to specific wavelengths of light for the treatment of dermatological conditions, sleep disorders, seasonal affective disorder or other psychiatric disorder, neonatal jaundice, wound healing, or other medical condition determined by a licensed medical professional to be treatable by exposing the individual to specific wavelengths of light.
Is phototherapy service exempt from the indoor tanning services tax?
A. It is exempt from the indoor tanning services tax if performed by a licensed medical professional on the medical professional’s premises.
Some day, in the not-too-distant-future, a number of medicinal phototherapy stores will open around Oakland, California, offering discounts on sessions and flagrantly violating the spirit of the law. Patricia Krentcil has probably already called her doctor for a diagnosis.
Correction: This article originally stated that the $2.7 billion was an annual figure. Happily for America, it is not.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.