Affordable Care Act: Here to Stay


(Tessa van Bergen / The Observer)


Unless you live under a rock, then you are fully aware that the United States now has a Republican-controlled Congress. The liberal media is cursing the gods, while the conservatives are hopeful that the American people’s faith in their government will be renewed, and that gridlock in Washington will be replaced by progress.

(Tessa van Bergen / The Observer)
(Tessa van Bergen / The Observer)

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, took a backseat this election season: health care reform is no longer the hot button issue in America, as immigration reform has been brought to center stage, but does that necessarily mean that Americans will no longer see a debate over health care reform and that the ACA is written in stone?

Republicans, as well as some Democrats, have highlighted the Medical Device Tax as their newest gripe with the ACA. The Medical Device Tax was tacked on the ACA as a sales tax levied on medical device manufactures. The tax was originally to be 4.6 percent, but was negotiated down to its current 2.3 percent by former Senator John Kerry. It is applicable on everything from surgical gloves to MRI machines, but according to the IRS, exemptions do exist on items such as eyeglasses, contacts and hearing aides. MRI machines are amongst some of the most expensive medical equipment available, and this tax can add anywhere from $3,450 to $27,600 to the purchase of a new machine. Some of this cost is passed onto the purchaser, whether it is a hospital or a privately held practice, which inevitably increases the price charged for each procedure.

Highlighting the Medical Device Tax is a genius campaign tactic: a majority of Americans have absolutely no idea what the tax truly entails (other than the fact that it is related to Obamacare), and it has garnered votes for candidates from those constituents who are less than well-informed about the topic, but nonetheless oppose the ACA.

The tax does serve an intrinsic purpose to the bill: it aims to provide additional revenue to the expanded health care coverage to an estimated 25 million Americans. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that the tax would provide $29 billion dollars in revenue over a decade. This is not the first health-related tax, however. Vaccinations, such as—but not limited to—the human papillomavirus vaccine and even the yearly flu vaccine that most of us receive, are taxed at $0.75 a dose.

Politicians and medical device manufacturers are arguing that the tax is causing job loss and discouraging the innovation of medical devices and technology—two arguments that are losing more and more clout because the statistics involved are circumstantial and unreliable.

At the end of the day, I am not expecting there to be a repeal of the tax. There just is not enough of a reason for it. America does not have the spare cash lying around to replace the $29 billion that it is estimated to generate over the next decade. If Congress even drafts a bill to repeal the Medical Device Tax and gets the bill to pass in both Houses, it is unclear as to whether President Barack Obama would sign it or veto it. The only reason I could see him signing off on the bill is to simply throw the Republican Party a bone.

President Obama did meet with congressional leaders on Nov. 7 for lunch to hammer out a plan for the next two years. Americans are expecting a lot, but they shouldn’t be expecting any major changes in health care any time soon. The ACA is still in its infancy and until there has been enough information gathered on its actual impact on healthcare costs there cannot be any motions raised to get rid of it. Health care in America is a waiting game, and unfortunately, we all must play it before we can start to make additional improvements.