Erik Paulsen's plan to solve our health care crisis: another corporate tax break

If you happen to be a medical device company, the GOP lawmaker has got your back and back pocket covered.

If you happen to be a medical device company, the GOP lawmaker has got your back and back pocket covered.

More than 26,000 Minnesota families lost their homes to foreclosure in 2010. That happened to be the same year the Affordable Care Act became law.  

The Medical Device Tax was invented to help pay for what's become known as Obamacare, the most significant overhaul of America's health care system in 50 years. Manufacturers like St. Jude Medical, headquartered in Little Canada, would pay a 2.3 percent tax on every defibrillator it sold, for instance.

Tax receipts over 10 years were estimated at $38 billion. The monies would go to expanding health coverage to the tens of millions of working class Americans who'd previously gone without.

The tax took effect in 2013 when device manufacturers employed 365,000 people, according to the US Department Commerce. Today, the number exceeds 400,000 workers.

The industry is also enormously profitable. Medtronic's gross windfall grew from $12.5 billion in fiscal year 2013 to almost $14 billion in 2015.  

Still, of all the things requiring solutions to our soaring health care costs, Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Eden Prairie) thinks a tax break for these guys should come first. 

Paulsen, Minnesota's Most Reprehensible Congressman (TM), was reelected in November when he handily beat Democratic challenger Teri Bonoff. His return to Capitol Hill presented the opportunity to thank his constituents, especially at a time when so many working families in places like Rogers, Bloomington, and Brooklyn Park face unaffordable premiums.

But regular folks weren't the priority for Paulsen once he got back to Washington, D.C. Wealthy device companies were. The lawmaker, the recipient of more than $500,000 in campaign contributions from the sector, showed as much. He kicked off the New Year by pushing for the permanent repeal of the Medical Device Tax.

Paulsen has carried their water for years. He led the successful campaign in 2014 to suspend the tax. But the two-year respite is slated to end in December.   

"One of the best ways to protect American manufacturing, spur innovation, and make sure the latest and best medical technology is affordable for patients is to repeal this burdensome tax," he said in a January 3 statement. 

The consequences of which would be no small matter.

Killing it, says University of Minnesota School of Public Health professor Jean Abraham, "means that important [Obamacare] 'pay-for' to finance the coverage expansion will disappear."

Paulsen has yet to offer up replacement funding sources. Messages left for the politician's spokesperson Andrew Johnson were not returned. 

Silence isn't golden for many of Paulsen's constituents, however.

About 250,000 Minnesotans were informed last year their health care premiums would skyrocket come 2017. For some the increased monthly hit was expected to be as steep as 67 percent.  

But the forecast for medical device manufacturers looks green, not red. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, worldwide sales last year were $340 billion. They're expected to increase to around $360 billion in 2017. Projections for 2020 push $440 billion.