The medical device tax is a political football today, as the U.S. Congress wrangles over a spending bill House Republicans want to use to repeal the tax and delay Obamacare by a year.
Without funding, the federal government is slated to shut down at midnight tonight when the fiscal 2014 year begins. Both Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and the White House have sworn to shoot down any spending bill that would affect Obamacare.
Economists fear that a shutdown will trigger a slide that, in a worst-case scenario, could lead to another recession. Markets the world over blinked today after a House session that spanned late Saturday into Sunday’s wee hours resulted in votes to delay Obamacare by a year and repeal the medical device tax, pegging the amendments to a continuing resolution that would keep the federal government funded until Dec. 15. The tax is 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.
House Republicans under speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) are under pressure from radical conservatives in the Tea Party to derail Obamacare by any means necessary. A Boehner spokesman said Sunday that Republicans are open to dropping the Obamacare delay but still want to do away with the 2.3% levy on all U.S. sales of prescribed medical devices.
"That is a potential compromise, if the Senate does that," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel, terming the compromise "common sense," told Politico. "We will make that decision when and if the Senate acts."
Citing a symbolic, 79-20 Senate vote earlier this year for repeal, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said on Fox News Sunday that there’s some wriggle room in the bill, calling the medtech levy the "pacemaker tax."
"I think the House will get back together and, in enough time, send another provision not to shut the government down, but to fund it and it will have a few other options in there for the Senate to look at it again," McCarthy said, according to the website. "I think there will be additions that I have found in the Senate, that Senate Democrats say they can support."
"I’m willing to look at that, but not with a gun to my head, not with the prospect of shutting down the government," Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told Face the Nation, according to Politico.
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 via email that another bid has 263 co-sponsors, including 38 Democrats.
The House votes over the weekend were 248-174 to repeal the tax and 231-192 to delay the healthcare law. Seventeen Democrats crossed the aisle to vote for the spending bill’s repeal amendment: Reps. Ron Barber (Ariz.), John Barrow (Ga.), Cheri Bustos (Ill.), John Delaney (Md.), Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Bill Enyart (Ill.), Dan Maffei (N.Y.), Sean Maloney (N.Y.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Mike McIntyre II (N.C.), Jerry McNerney (Calif.), Patrick Murphy (Fla.), Bill Owens (N.Y.), Scott Peters (Calif.), Nick Rahall (W.Va.), Brad Schneider (Ill.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.).
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.