WASHINGTON, DC – Last night at roughly 10:30pm ET, Senate Democrats defeated an amendment by U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) to the Health Care Reconciliation bill that would have exempted children and the disabled from the new tax on medical assistive devices. A mostly party-line vote with all but one Democrat voting against the Inhofe amendment killed the effort by a 57-41 vote.
“This is for the children and the disabled,” Inhofe said on the Senate floor moments before the vote. “It’s not the device companies that will be paying for this [tax], it will be the individuals who would be paying it. My amendment will exclude devices for children and those with disabilities, for example some of our troops that are coming home have lost limbs, and they have prosthetic devices. This is for them.”
Speaking on the side against the Inhofe amendment, U.S. Sen. Max Baucus (D- Mont.) admitted that the Democrats opposed the amendment because even children have a responsibility to pay for socialized medicine. On the Senate floor, Baucus said Senators should oppose the Inhofe amendment, because “It exempts a certain group [children and the disabled] from the shared responsibility of helping finance health care reform.”
Section 9009 of the recently passed health care bill imposes a new tax on assistive devices which includes items like pacemakers, ventilators, prosthetics, and incubators for premature babies. The reconciliation bill currently being debated does nothing to rid the underlying bill of this tax, but actually expands it to include more medical devices, such as tongue depressors, elastic bandages, most hand-held dental instruments, and examination gloves. The Inhofe amendment will strike these new taxes on assistive devices for children and individuals with disabilities from the health care bill.
Section 9011 of the recently passed health care bill calls for an after-the-fact study of the impacts this tax has on our veterans. Inhofe considers a study after the damage is done too little, too late. Congress recently found that “extremity injuries are the number one battlefield injury” with 82 percent of injuries from the Global War on Terror involving the extremities. Taxing our service members in order for them to receive necessary treatment to overcome these injuries is unconscionable.
Today, there are nearly 2 million Americans that suffer from the loss of limbs. Much of the prosthetic technology research and development is being conducted by the University of Oklahoma and by Oklahoma companies such as OrthoCare Innovations, Hanger Prosthetics, Martin Bionics, and Sabolich Prosthetics. Development of this technology for our veterans can also be applied to civilians suffering from limb loss.