Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

House Bill Chips Away at Health Law

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

House Bill Chips Away at Health Law

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- The House chipped away at President Barack Obama's signature health care law by voting Thursday to nix an unpopular tax on medical devices set to take effect in January, but the Democrat- controlled Senate is expected to squash the effort.

All but eight House Republicans voted to offset the revenue loss - - $29 billion over a decade -- by reducing subsidies meant to help the uninsured buy health care coverage. They were joined by 36 Democrats from states including Pennsylvania and Minnesota, which are home to several manufacturers of medical equipment.

In offsetting the revenue loss, the government would be allowed to recoup overpayments of federal insurance subsidies that lower- earning people may receive under the health care overhaul.

The 2.3 percent excise tax was meant to apply to manufacturers of all kinds of medical devices, from tongue depressors to heart defibrillators. Revenue was meant to offset the cost of government- mandated health insurance for the poor, but critics say the added costs will put health-product manufacturers out of business, force them to cut thousands of jobs or encourage them to pass on costs to consumers.

Democrats opposed to the repeal describe the tax as part of the price device manufacturers and other providers agreed to pay in exchange for the tens of millions of new customers they will get through the sweeping 2010 health care law's expansion of health insurance coverage.

Democrats say the provision calling for cuts in subsidies would penalize workers for getting raises. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., offered an example of a one-income family that becomes a two-income family, making them ineligible for the subsidy and resulting in a year-end $5,160 repayment liability.

Republicans took exception. "Requiring people to return money not correctly given to them is not a tax increase; it is a matter of honesty and integrity," said Rep. …

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