A powerful House committee approved a bill Tuesday to repeal Obamacare’s medical device tax, a provision that’s been criticized by members of both parties as a misguided way to pay for the health overhaul.
The Ways and Means Committee voted 25-14 to repeal the 2.3-percent excise on sales of pacemakers, artificial joints and other devices, with Rep. Ron Kind of Wisconsin the lone Democrat to support the bill.
“It’s an iron law of economics that when you tax something, you get less of it,” Chairman Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, said in a prepared statement. “So we’ve really got our wires crossed here. We want more medical devices. What we want less of is this bureaucratic meddling.”
Democrats on the panel cried foul, saying the GOP failed to come up with the $26 billion needed to replace the revenue that will be lost over the decade by scrapping the tax.
“Is there going to be a pay-for?” the committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, said. “I think the answer is probably no.”
The committee also voted 31-8 to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a panel created by Obamacare and tasked with keeping Medicare costs in check.
Although no one’s been appointed to the board, critics have decried it as a “death panel” of bureaucrats who ostensibly could rein in seniors’ care. Seven committee Democrats joined every Republican in voting for its repeal.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, is hoping to put each of the bills on the floor by mid-month.
The medical device tax took effect in 2013 and has been on the GOP’s legislative chopping block since then, although members of both parties have hinted at repeal for more than a year.
Lawmakers from states with a high concentration of medical device companies are especially quick to say the tax is a job killer that needs to go, and Republicans are eager to roll back Obamacare where they can.
Many Democrats, though, generally are reluctant to fiddle with President Obama’s signature health care law. Party leaders have defended the tax, saying the manufacturers have more customers thanks to Obamacare, so they can afford to pay.
Republicans, meanwhile, argue the device industry has helped real patients and cut costs by making health care more efficient, so there is no reason to hamstring their progress.
“The innovation has been astounding,” Rep. Charles W. Boustany Jr., Louisiana Republican, said.
Industry studies say the medical device tax cost the sector more than 30,000 jobs in the first year alone. But the Congressional Research Service, in a report from January, said the effect would be more muted — a drop of less than 1 percent in employment for the industry.
• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at email@example.com.
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