A new "mommy tax" in ObamaCare shows pitfalls; Update: Device list linked

The Senate proposal for ObamaCare at first included a tax on all “medical devices,” a broad categorization that would have imposed fees on such staples as tongue depressors and tampons, according to Amanda Carpenter at the Washington Times.  Only after a backlash from critics did Sen. Max Baucus amend his plan to only tax Class II devices starting at a retail price of $100, and all Class III and above devices.  However, that includes another staple for mothers, especially working mothers of infants, who want to raise their children on breast milk while earning a living:

When Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus proposed taxing medical devices to raise $40 billion over the next 10 years for his health care plan, opponents started digging in and looking at what would be taxed. It turned out feminine products, like tampons, were classified as class I medical devices and thus, the “tampon tax” was born.

The backlash was quick and severe enough against the idea that the committee quickly drafted new language that would exempt those necessities from the tax, along with all other class I devices, like tongue depressors, and decided to only tax class II medical devices and higher that cost [more] than $100.

But, just wait for the revolt to start again because women will still pay a price under the new structure. Particularly new moms who want to use a powered breast pump to bottle milk for their babies. Those devices, labeled class II, typically retails for more than $100.

Has anyone taken a look at the devices to which this new tax will apply?  There are more than 2900 of them, according to the FDA’s listing, which I took the time to download and sort today.  Included in this list are items both ubiquitous and arcane, but they all will cost us more to fund Obamacare.  Some examples:

  • Dentures, both partial and full (Class VI)
  • Fetal cell-screening kit (Class IV)
  • Female condoms, single use (Class III)
  • Treponemal syphilis test (Class IV)
  • HIV saliva test kit (Class IV)
  • Patient data storage and transmission software (Class VI)
  • Stair-climbing wheelchair (Class III)
  • Inflatable penis prosthetic (Class III)
  • Hip, knee, ankle, breast prosthetics (Class III)
  • Soft contact lenses, extended wear (Class III)
  • IUDs (Class III)
  • Dialysis catheters (Class III)
  • Dental X-rays (Class II)
  • Sickle-cell anemia tests (Class II)
  • Mammograms (Class II)

And so on.  Those Class II items are presumably costlier than $100, although the FDA does not have pricing lists for them.

Some of these items are explicitly counterproductive.  For instance, all dialysis gets funded by Medicare under its ESRD program.  Imposing taxes on dialysis catheters will only increase the cost to the government for dialysis patients, which already exceeds $9300 per month per patient.  Also, the administration keeps talking about saving costs through the use of digital technology for storing patient records, but this tax will make it more expensive than otherwise for providers to comply.

Every time our health-care providers have to use these items, they will pay more for them — and pass that cost onto us.  We may see that less directly thanks to the removal of the tampon tax, but the thousands of other items needed for our care will cost us more.  We need to understand the scope of this tax before it breaks our backs.

Update: I’ve cleaned up the spreadsheet of medical devices and output them into a PDF.  Peruse, and perhaps post what you think are the items that will most catch the attention of people unaware of the massive tax increases this represents.

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