Obama says no to device tax delay

President Barack Obama--courtesy of the White House

Opponents of the medical device tax were heartened this week after Senate Democrats pledged their support for a delay of the 2.3% charge, but they're going to have a tougher time convincing Barack Obama.

In an interview with Minnesota's WCCO, Obama said he doesn't agree with the 18 Democratic senators and senators-elect who are asking for a delay, saying the up-front tax burden will be made good over time thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

"The healthcare bill is going to provide those healthcare companies 30 million new customers," Obama said. "... The idea is that when you have 30 million more people coming in, you're going to make money. You can do a little more to help facilitate and make sure people are getting the healthcare they need."

Obama pointed out that it's not just the medical device industry footing the bill for reform. Doctors and providers are pitching in, too, and everyone stands to gain once the bill takes full effect, he said.

That's not quite the party line in the industry. Devicemakers have said the tax, which will raise about $30 billion over a decade, is a "job-killing" measure and a "raid" on the industry, and trade groups such as AdvaMed and MDMA have mounted PR and lobbying campaigns in an effort to convince the Democrat-controlled Senate to follow the House's footsteps and pass a repeal.

So far, that's been unsuccessful, but the growing popularity of delaying the tax, which kicks in Jan. 1, could have legs. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Kay Hagan (D-NC) wrote a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), asking him to consider a device tax delay as part of any solution to the ongoing fiscal cliff debate. And while that may be all for naught, this is the most Democratic support the industry has seen on the issue, and it could open the door for a Senate vote on the repeal bill after inauguration day.

- read the WCCO transcript

Special Report: 5 Things You Need To Know About the Medical Device Tax