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Taxing medical progress to death, continued: House considers Obamacare device tax repeal

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By Michelle Malkin  •  May 31, 2012 10:46 AM

In February, I focused your attention on Obamacare’s dangerous medical device tax, which is scheduled to go into full effect in 2013. Life-saving device manufacturers have been warning about the dire consequences. Reminder:

Cook Medical, which manufactures products for everything from endovascular therapy, critical care medicine and general surgery, to diagnostic and interventional procedures, to bioengineered tissue replacement and regeneration, gastroenterology and endoscopy procedures, urology, and obstetrics and gynecology, has called for the levy’s repeal. Cook Group chairman Stephen Ferguson noted the tax burden amounted to a whopping 55 percent of its profits.

“For a company like ours, which pays 35 percent of our net earnings in federal corporate taxes and another 4 to 5 percent in state and local corporate taxes, the excise tax translates to another payment that will consume 15 percent more of our earnings,” he estimated. “This creates tremendous pressure for us to move manufacturing to Europe and other parts of the world.” According to the trade publication Mass Device, the company has already canceled plans to build a new factory in the U.S. because of the Obamacare tax burden.

Stryker, a maker of artificial hips and knees based in Kalamazoo, Mich., announced in November that it would slash 5 percent of its global workforce (an estimated 1,000 workers) this coming year to reduce costs related to Obamacare’s taxes and mandates.

Covidien, a N.Y.-based surgical supplies manufacturer, recently announced layoffs of 200 American workers and plans to move some of its plant work to Mexico and Costa Rica, in part because of the coming tax hit.

Mass.-based Zoll Medical Corp., which makes defibrillators and employs some 1,800 workers in the U.S. and around the world, says the medical device tax will cost the company between $5 million and $10 million a year. Its profit in 2009 was $9.5 million. “Running our company at close to break even would not be a sustainable position for us,” CEO Richard Packer said in a public statement, “so we will be forced to look at alternatives.”

Those “alternatives” include cutting payroll, cutting R and D and passing on the costs to patients, of course. Industry estimates put the tax-induced job losses at 43,000. So far, the number-crunchers at 1600 Pennsylvania are mum on the number of potential jobs — and lives — destroyed by the medical innovation death tax.

In fact, the Obama administration’s response so far has been a flippant shrug.

Today, the House Ways and Means Committee is considering H.R. 436 — which would amend the Internal Revenue Code to repeal the tax. The movement is gaining ground on both sides of the aisle:

A bill to void the tax sponsored by Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) will be marked up in the House Ways and Means Committee Thursday. Republican House leaders say a floor vote could be scheduled as soon as next week.

Congress already has scotched other segments of the law through bipartisan votes — including a provision that would have expanded the range of purchases that businesses must report to the Internal Revenue Service and a “glitch” that would have allowed up to three million middle-class Americans to enroll in Medicaid.

It is still unclear if the medical device tax will prove the next example. Republicans have seized on the issue as a political weapon, pointing to it as the latest evidence that President Obama’s signature health-care initiative is a jobs killer. But the repeal bill’s 239 co-sponsors include 11 Democrats. Also expressing support are the two Democratic senators from Minnesota, one of at least eight states where the industry is strong.

…“This tax is a ticking time bomb that we need to dismantle before it’s too late,” said Paulsen, the repeal bill’s sponsor.

The whole damn thing is a ticking time bomb. Let’s hope Republicans get the message that “Undo Obamacare” means undo it all.

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