Panel votes to repeal ObamaCare tax

Greg Nash

The House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday voted to repeal two pieces of ObamaCare.

The committee advanced measures that would repeal the medical device tax and a cost-cutting panel known as the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). Both bills are scheduled to go to the House floor the week of June 15.

“I’m happy to say a lot of these bills have broad, bipartisan support,” said Rep. Paul RyanPaul RyanOvernight Healthcare: Obama confronts health law's 'growing pains' | Sanders slams leukemia drug price hike Trump may pose problem for Ryan in Speaker vote Trump is right, the system is rigged — and it has been for a long time MORE (R-Wis.), the committee's chairman. “I’d like to think they’re just common sense.”

Members of both parties have criticized the 2.3 percent tax on medical device manufacturers, which helps fund ObamaCare, as stifling innovation and hurting the industry.

Bipartisan attacks have also been waged against IPAB, which is tasked with recommending cuts in Medicare spending if it rises above a certain level. Critics warn the system could lead to unelected bureaucrats making important decisions about seniors’ care.

While the device tax repeal passed the Ways and Means Committee on a mostly party-line vote, seven Democrats joined Republicans in voting to repeal the IPAB.

Despite the Democratic support for IPAB repeal, there were plenty of partisan clashes at Tuesday's markup. 

“Clearly this bill reflects the majority’s objective to unravel the [Affordable Care Act],” Rep. Sandy Levin (Mich.), the top Democrat on the committee, said of the device tax repeal bill.

There was also something of a reversal in the parties' roles, as a string of Democrats berated Ryan for adding to the deficit by not offsetting the $26 billion cost of repealing the medical device tax. 

“Money doesn’t grow on trees,” said Rep. Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraClinton makes new push to win the House Dems bullish on Hispanic support, turnout The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (Calif.), a member of Democratic leadership.

Becerra said most Democrats could support repeal of the tax, under certain conditions.

“Just about every member would say, ‘Lets go forward and undo the tax,’ if, as some of the members on this side have said, we come up with a pay-for,” Becerra said. 

Other Democrats noted that the device industry had agreed to contribute to the cost of ObamaCare when the healthcare law was being drafted, and said it has seen an increase in revenue even with the tax.

Democrats were split on the IPAB question.

“I want to thank the chairman for finally agreeing to tweak and not repeal the Affordable Care Act,” said Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), a co-sponsor of IPAB repeal. 

Other Democrats noted that the IPAB is basically irrelevant, as it does not yet exist, and said other cost-control items, like the move to payments based on quality instead of quantity, mattered more.  

Ryan noted the vigor of the debate on the two ObamaCare-related bills. 

“The quality of this debate shows that this committee is up to legislating on healthcare,” he said.

Less controversially, the panel is also set to approve tweaks to the Medicare Advantage system for the government to contract with private insurers to provide care to seniors.

Those bills include measures to include more evidence in the risk score used to calculate government payments to insurers, and a measure to consider the socioeconomic status of enrollees when evaluating plans.