- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The House GOP’s tax writers announced a flurry of bills to delay Obamacare’s taxes on health insurers and medical devices and lift penalties on employers, saying Americans need “targeted relief” from the levies while they work to repeal and replace the law outright.

Health companies are begging the Ways and Means Committee for relief from a pair of controversial taxes that are set to return Jan. 1, after Congress suspended them in 2015 for two years.

A bill by Reps. Erik Paulsen of Minnesota and Jackie Walorski of Indiana would further delay a 2.3 percent excise tax on medical device sales for five years. Device makers called it a positive first step toward permanently repealing the tax, which has been criticized by both sides of the aisle.

Rep. Kristi Noem of South Dakota offered legislation that staves off the health insurance tax, or “HIT,” in 2018 for insurers who offer rebates to customers, since plans already baked the cost of the tax into next year’s premiums.

The bill would freeze the tax for all insurers in 2019.

Plans regulated by Puerto Rico would get two years of relief from the HIT tax under a separate bill from Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida.

Health care executives said they’re hoping that lawmakers decide to roll the bills into broader, must-pass legislation needed to keep the government funded into the new year.

“A five-year suspension is an important first step to provide medical technology innovators with confidence that this tax will not go back into effect. With time running short, we urge Congress to adopt this suspension immediately,” said Scott Whitaker, president and CEO of AdvaMed, a trade group for medical device makers.

A Ways and Means aide characterized the bills as “commonsense policy solutions,” and said Republicans “look forward to discussing timing and process in the weeks ahead,” as industry officials clamor for a reprieve before Congress leaves town for the holidays.

Yet another bill would provide large employers will three years of retroactive relief from the mandate requiring them to offer adequate health insurance or pay crippling fines.

The bill from Reps. Devin Dunes of California and Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania would also suspend the penalties for the coming year and delay the Cadillac tax on particularly generous employer plans from 2020 to 2021.

A fifth bill, by Rep. Lynn Jenkins of Kansas, would suspend a tax on over-the-counter medications for two years.

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