The U.S. House of Representatives voted today to repeal the medical device tax and delay the implementation of Obamacare by a year. Both the White House and Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) immediately promised to reject the vote, setting the stage for a government shutdown.
The House voted 248-174 to repeal the tax and 231-192 to delay Obamacare by a year. The measures are pegged to a continuing resolution that would keep the federal government funded until Dec. 15, forestalling the shutdown slated for the Oct. 1 start of the federal fiscal year.
“Tonight the House voted to keep the government open and American medical device innovation alive,” said Congressman Paulsen. “Medical device innovation affects us all, accounting for more than 400,000 U.S. jobs and countless new life-saving and life-improving technologies,” said Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.), who sponsored the amendment to repeal the device tax, in prepared remarks.
The House has voted more than 40 times to repeal Obamacare and last year approved a measure to repeal the medtech tax, a 2.3% levy on all U.S. sales of prescribed medical devices that’s projected to raise $30 billion over 10 years. It was designed to help pay for Obamacare, in return for an influx of newly insured patients the tax’s architects forecast as a result of the healthcare law.
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, told MassDevice.com today via email that another bid has 263 co-sponsors, including 38 Democrats.
"Since reintroducing his bill to repeal the medical device tax in February, Rep. Paulsen has been pushing leadership hard for a vote," according to the email from Philip Minardi. "This onerous tax on American medical innovation has already cost over 10k US jobs. It’s time for its repeal."
Yesterday, some 941 medical device companies sent a letter to Reid and the other Congressional leaders to "respectfully request that repeal of the medical device excise tax be addressed as a top priority."
"Implementation of what was to be a $20 billion excise tax – and is now estimated to collect over $30 billion in taxes – is adversely impacting patient care and innovation, and will substantially increase the costs of health care. The Senate and House have both passed repeal legislation with strong bipartisan majorities. On behalf of the more than 975 undersigned organizations, associations, companies, patients, providers and venture capital firms representing hundreds of thousands medical technology jobs, we ask that you act to repeal the medical device tax during this session of Congress," according to the letter.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement that the House vote amounts to "sabotage" of the healthcare law for the sake of ideology.
"Congress has two jobs to do: pass budgets and pay the bills it has racked up. Republicans in Congress had the opportunity to pass a routine, simple continuing resolution that keeps the government running for a few more weeks. But instead, Republicans decided they would rather make an ideological point by demanding the sabotage of the health care law," Carney wrote. "Republicans have tried and failed to defund or delay the health care law more than 40 times, and they know this demand is reckless and irresponsible. The president has shown that he is willing to improve the health care law and meet Republicans more than halfway to deal with our fiscal challenges, but he will not do so under threats of a government shutdown that will hurt our economy. Any member of the Republican Party who votes for this bill is voting for a shutdown. It’s time for the House to listen to the American people and act, as the Senate has, in a reasonable way to pass a bill that keeps the government running and move on."
Reid, who earlier this week called the medical device tax "stupid" (a spokesman later sought to walk that comment back, saying Reid meant that the move to repeal the tax is stupid), said yesterday that the vote on the tax and the Obamacare delay has no chance in the Senate.
"To be absolutely clear, the Senate will reject both the one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act and the repeal of the medical device tax," Reid said. "After weeks of futile political games from Republicans, we are still at square one: Republicans must decide whether to pass the Senate’s clean CR, or force a Republican government shutdown."
The medtech made headlines last week, with prominent legislators from both sides of the aisle joining the push for repeal. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), co-author with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) of a repeal bid, termed the tax a "stupid dumb-ass thing" earlier this week. The measure gained a 5th Democratic supporter when North Carolina’s junior senator, Kay Hagan, signed on Sept. 23.
Hatch’s remarks followed a joint statement from John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) opened up a new front in the war against the tax in a joint statement citing the "egregious" tax’s "destructive" impact on the U.S. medtech industry.
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) didn’t mince words when asked about some colleagues’ push this week to repeal the medical device tax enacted this year as part of Obamacare, telling the medtech industry that, "A deal’s a deal."
"That industry contributed to a solution; they agreed to the tax, essentially, as did other industries. It’s improper at this point to go back on the deal," Baucus said. "Also, it’d leave a deficit hole. … Who’s going to pay for getting them off the hook?"