We love you Senator Warren, but it's time to stop agreeing with Republicans on this one.
While Mitch McConnell and John Boehner are talking tough
about the major Obamacare repeal votes they'll be taking—votes that they say are intended to help working class America—they'll more likely start with the low-hanging fruit that won't really make much of a difference to any regular joe. But it will make a difference to the medical device manufacturers, who have been complaining loudly that they are expected to have a tiny bit of skin in the health insurance reform game since the law passed. So of course repealing the medical device tax is a top priority for Republicans
, helped by the fact that some Democrats want it gone, too.
The tax is relatively minuscule, applied to devices like pacemakers and artificial joints—not to the kinds of things millions and millions of people use like glasses and hearing aids or things people buy directly in retail settings. It's things doctors and hospitals purchase in caring for patients. A small percentage of that added tax—2.3 percent that medical device manufacturers tack on to items sold to providers—will end up being passed on to the patient, but most analysts think that cost to consumers (and to the insurance companies helping to foot the bill) will be nearly negligible. The tax will provide $29 billion in revenue over the next decade, according to CBO estimates, that will help do what the law was always intended to do, make insurance affordable for people.
But that relatively small revenue contribution makes it an attractive target for repeal, and that includes for Democratic Sens. Al Franken, Amy Klobuchar, and Elizabeth Warren who have device manufacturers in their states. That's what makes it attractive to Republicans—they can argue that they're repealing something, anything to their base, and pretend that they're being bipartisan, something the Very Serious People will always fall for. Which is probably the single best argument for Franken, Klobuchar, and Warren to stop supporting this repeal, along with the handful of other Democrats in the House and Senate who've played along.
For now, the White House has insisted they would not accept repealing it. It hasn't come to a test, because currently Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has refused to get it to the floor. House Republicans insisted on its repeal, along with a one-year delay in Obamacare implementation, in their ill-fated government shutdown demands last year (again, thinking they had bipartisanship on their side).
From a political positioning standpoint, this could be the first opportunity for Democrats to show that they will hold the line against any chipping away of Obamacare, which is precisely what they should do. That would put the pressure back on Republicans to justify to the American public why they are spending their first days in the majority doing nothing to help create jobs but instead are wasting time on a gift to the industry.