Report: Repeal of medical device tax gaining traction in Congress

Efforts to repeal the tax on medical devices that has helped fund the Affordable Care Act are gaining more traction in Congress following the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision supporting a key point of the law, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Members of the House of Representatives have already voted in favor of doing away with the 2.3% tax on devices, and the newspaper says Republican senators are now looking at the best time to take a vote on the issue. It's almost a certainty President Barack Obama would veto such a repeal, but there are a number of Democrats who also oppose the levy and could cobble together enough votes to override the president.

A repeal of the tax, which is imposed on manufacturers or importers of medical devices, could come in the form of a bargain as part of approving spending bills later this year, the paper said.

The tax is expected to reap about $30 billion in the next 10 years, though that dollar figure represents only a small portion of the funds needed to support expanded health coverage in the United States. Medical device manufacturers have opposed the tax, saying that they could make and sell devices at much cheaper prices without the added cost of the levy.

"This is a tax on manufacturing, and I've always been in favor of eliminating it," Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, told the WSJ. She is one of 5 Democrats co-sponsoring the Senate bill to repeal the tax. There is a high concentration of medical device companies based in her state like Medtronic ($MDT) and St. Jude Medical ($STJ).

Last month, the House passed a repeal of the medical device tax by a veto-proof margin of 280-140, sending the bill to the Senate. The repeal faces a filibuster in the Senate, unless 60 senators come out in favor of bringing the bill to the floor for debate.

An actual repeal of the medical device tax would likely need a revenue offset to fund the Affordable Care Act, which wasn't included in the bill because lawmakers haven't yet agreed on a "pay-for."

- check out the WSJ story (sub. req.)

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