Obama issues veto threat for healthcare bill

The White House on Wednesday issued a veto threat for a GOP-backed healthcare bill set for a House floor vote this week. 

Republicans argue that H.R. 436 — to repeal the healthcare reform law's medical device excise tax, among other purposes — would help lower healthcare costs. When the bill was introduced it had 11 Democratic co-sponsors, thought the version headed to the floor was modified by the Rules Committee and has no cosponsors.

But in its veto threat, the White House said the measure "would fund tax breaks for industry by raising taxes on middle-class and low-income families" and increase the number of uninsured Americans. 

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"The medical device industry, like others, will benefit from an additional 30 million potential consumers who will gain health coverage under the Affordable Care Act starting in 2014," read the statement of administration policy.

"This excise tax is one of several designed so that industries that gain from the coverage expansion will help offset the cost of that expansion."

In addition to repealing the device excise tax, the GOP bill would permit over-the-counter (OTC) drugs to be expensed under health savings accounts and give account holders easier access to unused balances. The version of the bill as introduced had 11 Democratic co-sponsors, out of a total of 240.

The latest bill is expected to see a floor vote on Thursday or Friday, following debate.

Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) office praised the bill, put forward by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), in a blog post Tuesday.

"House Republicans are filling the void left by the White House’s abject leadership failure and taking action this week on the Health Care Cost Reduction Act," the post read.

The measure would "save American jobs, reduce health care costs, and help families struggling to make ends meet in the Obama economy," Boehner's office said.

In its veto threat, the White House praised provisions of the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans want to repeal.

"The Affordable Care Act made significant improvements to the nation's health care system that are helping to improve individuals' health and give American families and small business owners more control of their own healthcare," the statement read. "These important changes include: ending the worst practices of insurance companies … and bringing down the cost of health care for families and businesses while also reducing Federal budget deficits." 

On Wednesday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to House members urging support for the bill and noting that the vote might appear on the group's annual scorecard. 

"The Chamber strongly urges passage of H.R. 436 to repeal the onerous tax on the medical technology industry and the restriction on using funds to purchase OTC medicine," the letter read.

— This story was last updated at 8:58 a.m. on June 7. 


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