Rep. Bill Owens (D-N.Y.) is one of nearly a dozen Democrats who have signed on to a bill that would repeal the 2.3% medical device tax set to take effect in January 2013.
As Rep. Erik Paulsen’s (R-Minn.) highly anticipated repeal measure nears a House vote in the coming weeks, support for the bill has remained largely on the right side of the aisle, boding ill for a companion bill moving through the Senate, where not a single Democrat has offered support.
Owens, too, was missing from the repeal measure’s roster until mid-May, when a constituent in Plattsburgh, N.Y., changed his mind.
"I was holding a town hall meeting in Plattsburgh, which is my home town, a county in New York, and a man who works in that community raised the issue with me," Owens told MassDevice.com."The gentleman in Plattsburgh who talked to me about this was very passionate about it having a negative impact on his business and potentially his employees, which I was very concerned about.
"He pointed out to me that some of his business, if it were lost in the U.S., may well drift to China," he added. "And China is always looking for ways to, if you will, steal our good ideas and sell them back to us."
The risk that U.S. jobs may get shipped overseas, especially to The People’s Republic, lit a fire under Owens, who launched an in-depth analysis of the medical device tax, a levy that will affect all U.S. medical device sales and raise a projected $30 billion over 10 years to support healthcare reform.
Listen to MassDevice.com’s exclusive podcast interview with Rep. Bill Owens
"I felt that the issues he was raising were valid and that we should get on the bill to repeal this tax," Owens told us.
The measure doesn’t need any additional signers in the House (it had 239 co-sponsors at last count, more than enough to pass), but without Democrats’ support it’s a sure bet to flop in the Senate, where not a single blue member has signed on.
In this exclusive podcast interview, Owens explains how he decided to support efforts to repeal the tax, why he feels repeal doesn’t threaten healthcare reform overall and how Congress might make up for the $30 billion the tax is expected to generate. And he urges fellow Democrats to conduct an analysis of the tax, talk to stakeholders in their districts and make up their own minds.
"Truthfully, anything I can do to stop manufacturing from going to China, I’m going to take every possible step to do that," Owens said.