An attempt to strike the medical device tax from the healthcare reform law went down in a Senate vote the broke down mostly along party lines.
The amendment, a motion to “strike the medical device tax” was defeated on a 56-42 vote to table the move, with two senators abstaining. The amendment was sponsored by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and co-sponsored by Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) along with two other senators.
Senators largely hewed along party lines, even those from states with large medical device clusters. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Al Franken (D-Minn.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) all voted against the amendment.
Two Democrats, Evan Bayh of Indiana and Nebraska’s Ben Nelson, voted along with Republicans in the effort to strike the tax.
The amendment was part of a set of last-minute procedural hurdles thrown into the mix by Senate Republicans to stall or derail the healthcare reform law. Democrats still managed to round up enough colleagues to pass the reconciliation bill 56-43, sending it back to the U.S. House of Representatives for what Democrats said will be a quick fix before it lands on President Barack Obama’s desk.
Brown’s office lamented the death of the anti-tax amendment, saying in an emailed statement that “at a time when unemployment in Massachusetts is hovering near 10 percent, Sen. Brown believes Congress should be doing everything in its power to create jobs — not imposing a jobs-killing tax that will hurt businesses and consumers in the Commonwealth.”
The levy, a 2.3 percent excise tax on sales of everything from bed pans to stents, was part of the landmark healthcare reform act passed by the U.S. House of Representatives March 21 and signed into law by Obama March 23.
Brown owes at least some of his meteoric rise to the support of the medical device industry. In a widely publicized January tour of Zoll Medical Corp. (NSDQ:ZOLL) that attracted a throng of national reporters, he told MassDevice that he would “stop the healthcare bill” if elected. It was a promise that the Massachusetts Medical Device Industry Council has tried to hold him to, issuing an open letter immediately after the election calling for him to stick to his guns.
According to a MassDevice poll, the healthcare reform bill is desperately unpopular in medical technology circles, with more than 50 percent of respondents saying they “hate the bill.”
An analysis of the tax’s impact on 58 medical device firms also shows that the 10 largest medical device makers would have generated 86 percent of the $1.87 billion in excise taxes last year, had the healthcare reform law been in effect, with many smaller firms suffering substantial hits to their bottom lines and three pushed from black to red ink.