Pawlenty slams Baucus plan

Neil Cavuto asks the right questions of Tim Pawlenty, whose Freedom First PAC just launched to answer such questions. Pawlenty does well here, if a bit subdued and wonkish, on the issue. Cavuto asks Pawlenty whether the CBO’s preliminary analysis has neutered Republicans objections, and Pawlenty offers a

Not at all, Neil, and let me give you one example. The Democrats for a generation have been pummeling Republicans about the head and shoulder about real or perceived cuts in Medicare. Now you have a Democratic majority in the United States Congress saying that a centerpiece of the savings in this bill will come from cuts in Medicare. … This thing still features a bucketload of tax increases.

Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar may speak out now against the medical-device tax, but in the end, they’ll vote for it if they can’t strip out that tax. This is a better tack to take for Republicans than the Medicare cuts, as it will impact a much broader range of Americans than just the Medicare cuts. How broad? One physician explained the impact of the device tax alone on care and costs in an e-mail to me yesterday:

As a pathologist, there are numerous things that are being overlooked, probably because the general public doesn’t understand. If you look at the 49 page list of medical devices, there are a bunch of laboratory items. If you look at the codes, HE is hematology, CH is chemistry, IM is immunology, TX is toxicology, AN is analyzer…The analyzers or laboratory instruments are taxed. The calibrators to calibrate the analyzers are taxed. The controls which are known samples that are run 3 times a day to ensure that the analyzer is working are taxed. Numerous testing assays which include the reagents to run the test are taxed. So you could be looking at one lab test having a tax on the analyzer (granted most analyzers run more than one test, but not always), calibrators taxed, controls taxed and reagents taxed. Hell, they even tax the rack to hold the tube for a hematocrit. See hematocrit, tube, rack, sealer, holder. Costs will go up across the board for lab work. CBC, chemistries, blood typing, viral testing, coagulation studies, immunoassay for troponin to see if someone is having a heart attack and on and on. It is truly amazing.

The device tax is a cost multiplier beyond imagination, and it will drive costs up in a very dishonest manner — behind the scenes, using the pricing opacity in the current system as a screen. Consumers will only see prices raised indirectly, through higher premiums and eventually rationing of services.

The preliminary CBO scoring will force Republicans to get specific about all of these hidden economic disasters in the Baucus plan, rather than just rely on deficit scoring, at least until it gets turned into legislative language in the Senate. That may mean more work for the GOP, but it will result in better rebuttals and more clarity on the disaster that ObamaCare means for the US.