- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 7, 2012

House Republicans took another swipe at the financing for President Obama’s health care law on Thursday, voting to repeal two more pieces of the landmark legislation — including a tax on medical-device makers that was intended to help pay for the act.

Even though the partial repeal will be dead on arrival in the Democrat-controlled Senate, House Republicans, with the help of 37 Democrats, approved the rebuke of Mr. Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment 270-146, with conservative lawmakers using the vote as a chance to paint the health care law as an unpopular job-destroyer.

“The president has threatened to veto our bill because the tax will pay for his health care law,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. “We shouldn’t be increasing taxes to pay for a law that a majority of Americans want repealed, a law that even some ardent supporters admit will not work as intended.”

Sponsored by Rep. Erik Paulsen, Minnesota Republican, the bill would undo a 2.3 percent tax on the sales of companies that produce medical equipment such as pacemakers and ultrasound machines. Republicans said the tax would force companies to lay off workers, especially in states with strong presences of the industry, including Minnesota, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

Democrats had written the tax into the 2010 law after striking a deal with medical-device makers. In return, the law is expected to increase demand for medical equipment by extending health coverage to more than 30 million uninsured Americans.

The Paulsen bill would also lift new restrictions that went into effect last year on using tax-deductible health savings accounts to buy over-the-counter drugs.

To foot the cost for repealing both items, Republicans proposed dipping into a pot of money they’ve turned to several times before: a fund based on the return of “overpayments” the government is expecting from taxpayers who have been overcompensated on insurance-payment subsidies.

The bill would require Americans with overpayments to return every last dime, raising $44 billion over a decade but resulting in 350,000 fewer Americans enrolling in the crucial insurance exchanges, according to congressional tax analysts.

The “pay-for” element of the bill cost Republicans votes with some Democrats who said they dislike the medical-device tax, but refused to back a measure that could undercut the insurance exchanges — a central provision of the health care law.

“If we had a good pay-for today and everybody agreed we were going to try to hold onto the basis of the Affordable Care Act, count me in,” said Rep. Richard E. Neal, Massachusetts Democrat, who said he’s worried about harming medical-device manufacturers, but wouldn’t vote for the payment method. “The reality is, this vote is simply another political stunt to chip away at the Affordable Care Act.”

But with Massachusetts as a major hub for device manufacturing, other Democrats in the state have called for repealing the medical-device tax, including Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren.

And GOP presidential nominee and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney applauded the bill’s House passage.

“With unemployment stuck over 8 percent for 40 months, we can’t afford policies that kill jobs and stifle innovation in one of America’s most dynamic industries,” he said. “The ill-considered medical-device tax is only one of many fatal flaws in Obamacare.”

The Paulsen bill marked the 30th time the House has voted to repeal part or all of the Affordable Care Act.

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