Bipartisan ‘Problem Solvers’ healthcare reform bill would kill medtech tax

A new bipartisan effort from the US Congress’ Problem Solvers Caucus that looks to alter Obamacare includes a provision to eliminate the 2.3% medical device tax, according to a Finger Lakes Times report.

The movement has received support from democratic Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Repub. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who said they are looking for a plan to stabilize the healthcare markets and lower insurance premiums, according to the report.

“It is a great day for American when we put aside our political differences and put Americans first. The Problem Solvers Caucus, in conjunction with governors Kasich and Hickenlooper, demonstrated to our colleagues that only by working together can we solve America’s problems. Looking forward, we are already working on tax reforms that will remove the shackles from American business and unleash the innovation and optimism that drive America,” Congressman Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) said, according to the paper.

The removal of the 2.3% device tax would benefit medical device developers, as currently the costs associated with the tax are passed on to the consumers, the caucus claims.

The group has a number of other recommendations for improving the healthcare system in the US, including a commitment that the Trump administration agree to cost-sharing reduction payments and the adoption of a temporary stability fund by congress to create reinsurance programs and reduce premiums.

The plan would encourage insurance companies to enter underserved areas by exempting insurance tax on exchanges in those regions. The individual mandate would be retained, at least for now, and younger people would be encouraged to get insurance to help balance the system, according to the report.

Cost-sharing reduction payments would be moved under congressional oversight, and dedicated stability funds would be formed to reduce premiums and limit losses for providing coverage, specifically targeting individuals with pre-existing conditions.

The employer mandate would be moved from 50 employees at 30 hours to at least 500 employees at 40 hours, according to the report.

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Trump declares national emergency over opioid epidemic

President Trump said yesterday that he is preparing to declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency. This is a reversal from an announcement made earlier this week by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who said that they would not declare a state of emergency.

“The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I’m saying officially right now it is an emergency,” Trump reportedly said, according to The Hill. “It’s a national emergency. We’re going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis.”

Get the full story at our sister site, Drug Delivery Business News.

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Conservative groups jump on medical device tax repeal bandwagon

A coalition of conservative action groups yesterday jumped on the bandwagon for repealing the medical device tax, urging Congressional leaders to scrap the 2.3% levy on U.S. medtech sales.

In a letter to House speaker Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the group also advocated for repealing a tax on certain insurance programs. Both levies, enacted as part of Obamacare, are on hiatus until next year.

The group, which includes Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform and the political arm of the American Legislative Exchange Council, warned that both taxes will lead to “higher premiums and higher costs for middle class families, seniors, and small businesses.”

“There are more than 6,500 medical device companies in the U.S., 80% of which have fewer than 50 employees. The industry contributes $150 billion annually to the economy. The tax impairs the industry’s ability to innovate, invest, and create jobs,” according to the letter, which cites figures from the center-right American Action Forum. “If Congress allows it to go into effect in 2018, the medical device tax could lead to more than 25,000 lost jobs by 2021. Over the next decade, this excise tax is projected to increase taxes by $30 billion.”

The move to repeal the medical device tax, which enjoys bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress, is also the subject of a social media campaign by industry lobby AdvaMed aiming to goad legislators from key states.

See the best minds in medtech live at DeviceTalks Boston on Oct. 2.

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Trump proposes deep cuts to Medicaid, NIH funding

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Capitol HillPresident Donald Trump’s proposed budget would slash Medicaid funding and cut support for major biomedical research programs at the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

The budget blueprint drew condemnation from healthcare advocates and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. Senate majority whip Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) reportedly said earlier this week that Medicaid cuts wouldn’t get through Congress.

“I think the tradition is presidents write budget proposals and that the Senate and the House substitute their own, and so I wouldn’t expect that would carry the day,” he told The Hill.

The potential $610 billion cut to Medicaid would add to the $839 billion cut proposed by the American Health Care Act that passed in the House earlier this month.

The proposal to slash Medicaid funding goes against Trump’s campaign promise to leave Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security funds untouched.

Among the more significant reductions proposed in Trump’s budget are an -19% cut to the National Cancer Institute and a -28% cut to spending on environmental health. The budget would also trim funding for the National Science Foundation by $776 million, or -11%.

According to the president’s proposal, the FDA would receive $1.89 billion in direct government funding. The 31% decrease would be offset by an increase of $1.3 billion in user fees.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said the proposed $5.8 billion cut to NIH funding “penny-wise and pound-foolish”, according to Stat. Cole is the chair of the House health appropriations subcommittee.

The proposal did not include any direct cuts to Medicare.

CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden took to Twitter to respond to the administration’s proposal, calling it an “assault on science.”

Also today, Rep. Tom Macarthur (R-NJ) resigned as co-chairman of the so-called Tuesday Group, a caucus of moderate House Republicans, citing divisions over efforts to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, according to a report from Politico. 

Short of votes, Trumpcare bill is withdrawn

Republican leaders in the US House of Representatives today withdrew the GOP-backed Trumpcare bill, which aimed to begin dismantling and replacing Obamacare, due to a shortage of votes.

A vote on the measure was planned after Trump cut off negotiations with Republicans who had balked at the plan and issued an ultimatum to vote on Friday, win or lose.

The legislation saw opposition from both moderate and conservative Republicans, and neither House leaders nor the White House were able to create a plan which satisfied both parties.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wi) reportedly spoke to Trump at 3 p.m. and was instructed to pull the bill, which was delayed yesterday after failing to find enough support to guarantee its passage.

It is unclear whether or not the bill will be rescheduled for another vote.

Last week, the Trumpcare bill won approval from the US House of Representatives Budget Committee, despite losing support from 3 conservatives.

The plan cleared the Committee with a 19 to 17 vote, with David Brat (R-Va), Gary Palmer (R-Al) and Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) voting against, joined by the panel’s Democrats.

The legislation was approved by the Energy & Commerce Committee and the Ways and Means committee a week prior.

Last week, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released data on the effects of the Trumpcare bill, estimating it would cause 14 million individuals to lose healthcare next year, with 24 million losing coverage by 2026. The bill would also cut $337 billion from the federal budget deficits over 9 years, the CBO said.

Average premiums for individuals buying insurance on their own would increase 15% to 20% in 2018 and 2019 compared to the current ACA law, according to the budget office, but would be lower by approximately 10% by 2026.

The plan would also immediately remove the penalty for people who do not have health insurance and halt the expansion of Medicaid at the beginning of 2020, capping funding for the federal healthcare program for the poor. It would preserve a pair of popular Obamacare features: Allowing children to remain on family health plans until age 26 and barring insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.

The newly inked plan would abolish subsidies for purchasing healthcare, instead creating age-based tax credits that could be used to buy health insurance; the credits would be capped for people with higher incomes. And it would direct $100 billion to the states for programs aimed at certain populations, such as high-risk pools of the sickest patients.

The American Medical Association also came out against the bill, calling it “Critically Flawed”.

In a letter to congress, the AMA said it outlined provisions in the new bill that would have an adverse impact on patients and the health of the nation, which would be caused due to a large decline in health insurance coverage.

Material from Reuters was used in this report.

House delays vote on Trumpcare bill

The US House of Representatives today indefinitely delayed its vote on the Trumpcare legislation, which looks to begin dismantling Obamacare and replacing it with a GOP-supported framework.

The Trump administration and the GOP had hoped the day would signal a significant turn for conservatives, with Trump and House Republican leaders planning the vote on the 7th anniversary of former President Barack Obama signing his name to the Affordable Care Act, which became known as Obamacare.

Sen. Majority leader Mitch McConnel (R-Ky.) informed senators that a vote on the bill may not be held in the House before Monday, according to a senior Senate aide.

Last week, the Trumpcare bill won approval from the US House of Representatives Budget Committee, despite losing support from 3 conservatives.

The plan cleared the Committee with a 19 to 17 vote, with David Brat (R-Va), Gary Palmer (R-Al) and Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) voting against, joined by the panel’s Democrats.

The legislation was approved by the Energy & Commerce Committee and the Ways and Means committee a week prior.

Last week, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released data on the effects of the Trumpcare bill, estimating it would cause 14 million individuals to lose healthcare next year, with 24 million losing coverage by 2026. The bill would also cut $337 billion from the federal budget deficits over 9 years, the CBO said.

Average premiums for individuals buying insurance on their own would increase 15% to 20% in 2018 and 2019 compared to the current ACA law, according to the budget office, but would be lower by approximately 10% by 2026.

The plan would also immediately remove the penalty for people who do not have health insurance and halt the expansion of Medicaid at the beginning of 2020, capping funding for the federal healthcare program for the poor. It would preserve a pair of popular Obamacare features: Allowing children to remain on family health plans until age 26 and barring insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.

The newly inked plan would abolish subsidies for purchasing healthcare, instead creating age-based tax credits that could be used to buy health insurance; the credits would be capped for people with higher incomes. And it would direct $100 billion to the states for programs aimed at certain populations, such as high-risk pools of the sickest patients.

While US House Speaker Paul Ryan said he believes there exists enough support to pass the bill, while others, such as Senator Roy Blunt, seem to doubt the bill’s ability to clear both the House and Senate.

“I’m going to be very anxious to hear how we get 51 votes and how the House gets 218,” Blunt told reporters.

The American Medical Association also came out against the bill, calling it “Critically Flawed”.

In a letter to congress, the AMA said it outlined provisions in the new bill that would have an adverse impact on patients and the health of the nation, which would be caused due to a large decline in health insurance coverage.

Material from Reuters was used in this report.