Day 4: Medical devices.
I’ve been thinking about medical devices. Have you?
I’ve been thinking about this because I’ve noticed that over the last couple of days, as I’ve obsessively watched CNN, I’ve heard members of Congress make casual remarks along the lines of:
- Well, if we could just get rid of this medical device tax…
- The President isn’t willing to negotiate over the medical device tax…
This seems like a pretty clear invitation to dance. Waltz with me won’t you, to the dulcet tones of the words ‘tax repeal?’ The tax is one of three sources of funding for Obamacare, and given its potential impact on domestic medical device manufacturers, some Democrats (Elizabeth Warren! Al Freakin’ Franken!) have voted against the tax in the past and seem to have indicated their willingness to negotiate on it now. Is this the issue that allows both sides to give a bit to get something? Maybe this is, in the words of Rep. Jim McDermott, the face-saver.
The 2.3% tax will apply to items like pacemakers, stents, tools used in surgery…I’ve seen a couple of articles that say it covers anything a doctor uses, including tongue depressors, so who knows. None of these costs would be (directly) paid by the patient, but by the manufacturer of the device.
The Washington Post’s opinion editors called repealing the medical device tax an ‘idea full of holes.’ “It figures that the only policy idea that might bring the two parties together is not a terribly good one,” they wrote. They point out that it’s hard to have a lot of sympathy for an industry with costs offset by government funds through Medicare and Medicaid. Also, widespread coverage under Obamacare would lead to more patients with access to medical devices, which would be a direct benefit to device manufacturers and would to some extent offset the tax.
This Forbes.com contributor, interestingly, says repealing the tax is a good idea, but not for the reasons you might think. “Most industry complaints about the levy — that it costs jobs and stifles innovation — are unconvincing,” he writes. In his view, the medical device tax is unfair in terms philosophical, if not practical. That is, because Obamacare is a broad-based social program, it should be funded by a similarly cross-cutting mechanism, not by a tax on one specific part of the medical industry.
I’ve heard members of Congress on both sides of the aisle say things like– ‘Do I think Obamacare is perfect? No. Should we leave it in place and fix it? Yes.’ I wonder if this device tax is one of those imperfections that the cooler heads on the Hill are looking at fixing.
But even then– let’s say that’s what gets it done. Medical device tax repealed, and we re-open the government. Then it feels like really, all this time– that’s what all this was about? Next time folks, use your words.
In contrast to the cooler heads on the hill, my boo Ryan Lizza recently wrote about the GOP ‘suicide caucus‘ and its role in the shutdown. (Lizza did not christen the caucus– apparently, Charles Krauthammer did, on Fox News. Side note– I can’t get enough of Krauthammer’s eyebrows. Give me more Krauthbrows.) My boo’s point is that (1) the suicide caucus members are from ‘supermajority’ districts where their only concern would be a challenge from further to the right, and (2) Obama lost hard in these districts. These members represent “an America where the population is getting whiter, where there are few major cities, where Obama lost the last election in a landslide, and where the Republican Party is becoming more dominant and more popular. Meanwhile, in national politics, each of these trends is actually reversed.” Gawker further reduced the suicide caucus to a tasty sauce of 10 particularly striking individuals— the ‘suicide caucus’ suicide caucus.’ Say that as many times fast as you can, while pondering the placement of the apostrophe at the end of singular nouns that end in ‘s.’
And yes, I referred to Ryan Lizza as my boo. My nerd crush on him is getting worse by the day. Hey– I’m just blogging, and this is crazy, but I like your style, so call me maybe? I might introduce a Ryan Lizza feature here. Today’s DeLizza-ious Dose:
That is terrible, DeLizza-ious Dose! Oh, wow. Like, awful. So bad. Let’s cleanse our palates. Ryan, do you ever leave Washington? If you’re ever in my neck of the woods, I have a song for you. I mean, I’m on a furlough and everything, so– I don’t have a lot of money, but we’ll be fine…
And now: A Hymn for Ryan Lizza