The U.S. House voted Thursday to repeal a future sales tax on medical devices.
It might have been a temporary victory for Warsaw orthopedic device manufacturers Biomet, DePuy Othopaedics and Zimmer Holdings.
“This bill isn’t going anywhere,” Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., predicted during floor debate.
Democratic leadership in the Senate has indicated the Protect Medical Innovation Act will not be considered by that chamber, Levin said, and White House advisers have recommended that President Obama veto the legislation if it gets to his desk.
The Supreme Court will issue a ruling this month on whether Obama’s health care law is constitutional. The 2.3 percent sales tax on medical devices, scheduled to take effect in January, is expected to raise $29 billion in the next 10 years to help pay for the Affordable Care Act.
Thursday’s House vote was 270-146, with 233 Republicans and 37 Democrats supporting the tax repeal and 146 Democrats opposing it.
Of the three Democrats in Indiana’s nine-member delegation, only 2nd District Rep. Joe Donnelly, who is running for a Senate seat and backed the health care law in 2009, voted in favor of the bill.
“My top priority is creating and protecting Hoosier jobs,” Donnelly said in a statement, “and the job creators and workers in Indiana’s medical device industry are important to the state’s economy.”
More than 21,000 Hoosiers work for advanced medical device manufacturers, according to industry data. About 13,000 of those jobs are in Kosciusko County and pay $70,000 a year on average, according to a study released last year by the Warsaw-based non-profit OrthoWorx.
“Washington’s insatiable appetite for taxes is targeting an industry that creates high-paying jobs and offers invaluable medical advances,” Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, said in a written statement.
“This job-killing tax will stifle innovation, harm patients and raise the cost of health care for Hoosiers,” Rep. Mike Pence, R-6th, the GOP candidate for governor, said in a written statement.
Pence and Stutzman said Indiana could lose 2,000 jobs if the tax is implemented. Other Republicans said 43,000 jobs across the nation are at risk as manufacturers will look to outsource work to countries with lower costs.
Tax proponents disputed job-loss projections during floor debate and doubted Republicans’ claims that companies already are laying off workers in anticipation of having to pay the tax.
“You cannot tell me that the management of these companies are that foolish,” said Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash.
Democrats insisted that 350,000 people would lose health coverage under the bill because it would offset lost revenue by decreasing federal health insurance subsidies. That in turn would curb demand for medical devices, Democrats argued.
The tax does not apply to retail medical devices such as eyeglasses, contact lenses and hearing aids.
Republican Sens. Dan Coats and Richard Lugar of Indiana are among the co-sponsors of a Senate bill that would repeal the medical device sales tax.