Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) is the 6th Democrat to sign on to a Republican bill that would repeal Obamacare’s medical device tax.
Shaheen joins fellow Senate Dems Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken of Minnesota, Pennsylvania’s Robert Casey and Joe Donnelly of Indiana in signing the bill as its Republican sponsors put on a publicity blitz for the measure, the "Medical Device Access and Innovation Protection Act."
Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) added her name to the bill last month.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) last February, has 37 co-sponsors including Shaheen, who added her name Oct. 10. The medical device tax, a 2.3% levy on U.S. sales of medical devices, is projected to raise $30 billion over a decade. It went into effect Jan. 1, with medical device trade lobbies claiming that more than $1 billion was tendered to the IRS by medical device firms so far this year.
The tax has become a negotiating point in the ongoing battle over the federal shutdown, with the White House and majority leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) adamant in their refusal to entertain any changes to President Obama’s signature healthcare reform law.
But that stance could be easing, with the White House signaling this week that it may be willing to consider a repeal bill as long as it comes with a pay-for.
The White House has on several occasions said that medical device tax repeal is a non-starter, maintaining that the levy represents the medtech industry’s fair burden in helping to fund healthcare reforms that will bring them more customers. The so-called "windfall" rhetoric has been a staple of the battle over the medical device tax, with proponents of the tax arguing that medtech companies will offset much of their costs through their new customers and the industry insisting that the newly insured aren’t the kind that end up needing medical devices.
This week, for the 1st time, the White House said that it would be open to discussing repeal of the tax in the larger context of the Affordable Care Act, as long as any efforts to spike the bill include measures to make up for the $30 billion the tax is supposed to generate over the course of 10 years.
Repeal of the medical device tax has gotten a lot of traction in Congress, especially in the GOP-ruled House of Representatives, which has voted more than once to repeal the levy, most recently with a vote late last month that effectively blew up federal budget talks. Earlier this year a symbolic, non-binding repeal vote passed the Senate 79-20. A measure to repeal the tax easily passed in the House last year on a 242-173 vote; a spokesman for Paulsen, that bill’s sponsor, recently told MassDevice.com that another bid has 263 co-sponsors, including 38 Democrats.
The issue of a so-called "pay-for" to make up for the lost revenue the medical device tax is projected to generate has been a sticking point for many Democrats.
The last pay-for, proposed in June 2012 by GOP leaders ahead of a House vote, aimed to take a stronger hand in recouping over-paid health insurance tax credits granted to families. The measure was met with much consternation from Democrats, many of whom said they would have supported a device tax repeal bill if the cost didn’t fall on families.
Other pay-for proposals floated by lawmakers seek to make up for the lost revenue by cutting tax breaks for big oil and gas companies.