As promised, the newly Republican-controlled Congress is about to take its first swipe at the president’s health care law.
Though many in the GOP would love nothing more than to repeal Obamacare in its entirety, doing so would be impossible as long as President Obama is in the White House. Instead, they’ve set their sights on systematically undoing some of the law’s most unpopular provisions—and it looks like the medical device tax may be the first to go.
On Tuesday, a group of 10 senators, including six Republicans and four Democrats, filed legislation that repeals the 2.3 percent excise tax on medical devices imposed under Obamacare. The levy is among a handful of taxes that help finance the health care law. The Joint Committee on Taxation has previously estimated that it will raise about $28 billion over the next decade.
The bipartisan bill sponsored by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) does not include how it will make up for the lost revenue. Still, it is perhaps one of the only realistic chances the GOP has to strip down a portion of Obamacare this year. It’s unclear whether the president would kill the bill with his veto pen, though the White House has threatened to veto a similar bill in the past.
The law’s medical device tax is a popular punching bag among Republicans and a handful of Democrats who live in districts with large medical device companies and factories. Opponents of the tax say it’s a job killer; they also claim the tax will ultimately get passed onto patients in the form of more expensive care.
“Every dollar medical device manufacturers spend on this onerous tax is a dollar taken away from American innovation, job growth and the ability to provide groundbreaking medical technologies to patients in need,” Hatch said in a statement. “Both Republicans and Democrats understand just how bad this tax really is and we owe it to the American people to ensure the development of life-saving medical devices are not plagued by high costs that will, ultimately, be passed onto patients.”
However, a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service released shortly after the bill was filed Tuesday suggests the tax won’t be nearly as disastrous as its opponents claim.
CRS said that the tax’s impact on medical device companies is expected to be “relatively modest,” contrary to Hatch’s statements. The report also said, “Innovation and research would be minimally affected.”
CRS estimated that the tax could result in somewhere between 47 and 1,200 workers losing their jobs, a very small number compared to the 35-40,000 jobs the medical device industry has previously projected would be lost.
Still, the lawmakers are most likely going to push for the bill – and it’s likely that it could be the first piece of Obamacare legislation that winds up on the president’s desk. Republicans have also vowed to target the law’s 30-hour workweek provision as well the employer mandate. Stay tuned.
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