Feature:Opinion

Obamacare medical device tax: hazardous to America’s health

Photo of Rep. Tom Price & Rep. Renee Ellmers
Rep. Tom Price & Rep. Renee Ellmers
Members of Congress
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      Rep. Tom Price & Rep. Renee Ellmers

      Rep. Tom Price is an orthopaedic surgeon representing Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District. He serves as the chairman of the Republican Policy Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. Rep. Renée Ellmers represents North Carolina’s Second Congressional District. A nurse by trade, Ellmers is the chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Healthcare and Technology.

As medical professionals, we understand the necessity of accessible and affordable health care. A critical component of such care is the availability of technologies that improve, enhance and even save lives.

Right now, access to innovative quality care in America is threatened by a 2.3 percent excise tax on medical devices that was included in the president’s disastrous health care law. Between 2013 and 2022, taxes are slated to increase on device manufacturers by $28.5 billion, a cost that would certainly be passed on to patients in the form of more expensive products and procedures. Tools and services that physicians and nurses utilize to help meet the needs of patients will become more expensive. In fact, instead of increasing affordability and protecting access to care for all Americans, this tax further widens the gap between those who can pay for quality care and those who cannot.

The levy on device manufacturers would inevitably force layoffs across the country. At a time of widespread joblessness, removing barriers to innovation and entrepreneurship are imperative to growing our economy. Those are just the kind of jobs created at medical start-ups, small businesses and corporations. They are the jobs that will not be created or which will be lost if manufacturers have to send even more tax dollars to Washington.

America’s international competitiveness would also take a severe hit. Developed nations focus on research and development not only for the health of their citizens, but also for the benefit of their economies. A new medical device tax would diminish what competitive advantages the United States might have over other nations — discouraging innovation here at home and encouraging it abroad.

In a July 2011 letter to Congress, the Medical Device Manufacturers Association and more than 420 other signatories summarized its catastrophic impact on health care, saying: “If this tax is not repealed, it will continue to force affected companies to consider cutting manufacturing operations, research and development, and employment levels to recoup the lost earnings due to the tax. It will also adversely impact patient access to new and innovative medical technologies.”

Undoubtedly, the medical device tax is hazardous to America’s health. Failing to repeal it would allow another Obama policy to destroy more jobs, deplete the innovative spirit of American manufacturing and lower the quality of health care.

To avoid this fate, the House of Representatives is taking action and proposing legislation — the “Protect Medical Innovation Act of 2011.” This proposal repeals the excise tax imposed by the president’s health care law on all medical devices.

We, along with 236 of our congressional colleagues, including a dozen Democrats, have cosponsored this important piece of legislation. There is bipartisan consensus — at least in this instance — that when you tax something, you get less of it. The last thing we want is less advancement in life-saving medical technologies.

House Republicans remain fully committed to repealing Obamacare in its entirety. As we await the Supreme Court’s decision on the constitutionality of the president’s health care law, we will continue working tirelessly to restore innovation and patient-centered care in America. Repealing this devastating tax is one step closer to doing just that.

Rep. Tom Price is an orthopaedic surgeon representing Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District. He serves as the chairman of the Republican Policy Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. Rep. Renée Ellmers represents North Carolina’s Second Congressional District. A nurse by trade, Ellmers is the chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Healthcare and Technology.