House votes to delay Obamacare insurance tax, loosen health savings accounts restrictions
The House of Representatives voted Wednesday on bills to delay an Affordable Care Act tax and allow consumers broader use of health savings accounts.
In a 242-176 vote, House Republicans joined one dozen Democrats to support a bill that would postpone the health insurance tax through 2021. The tax, which already had been delayed through 2019, is intended to help fund the health law’s insurance expansion.
But House Republicans said the tax helped drive the cost of health insurance premiums higher. Democrats blamed the Trump administration’s actions for higher insurance premiums this year and said eliminating the tax would reduce federal revenue by $50 billion over the next decade, worsening the federal deficit.
Another health-related tax bill allowing consumers to use health savings accounts to purchase over-the-counter medications and other health-related products received bipartisan support in a 277-142 vote.
Other provisions of would allow consumers to use health savings accounts for exercise and fitness programs and for “direct primary care” doctors who give patients expanded access in exchange for an annual fee. The measure also would allow consumers to carry a balance from year to year in flexible-spending accounts; these accounts now require users to spend the entire account within a calendar year.
The two measures were approved one day after the House voted to repeal a 2.3 percent tax on medical devices, a bill that also received bipartisan support,
Some Democrats said the bills would add to the federal deficit and undermine the Affordable Care Act. They also questioned whether the legislation was intended to help vulnerable lawmakers in an election year.
“These bills will not likely pass the Senate or become law,” said Rep. Sander Levin, D-Michigan. “This is essentially a political exercise.”
The medical device tax took effect in 2013 but was suspended in 2016. The House vote would eliminate the tax, but the bill, which would reduce federal revenue about $20 billion over the next decade, likely faces an uphill battle in the Senate.
Rep. Erik Paulsen, a Minnesota Republican who sponsored the bill, said the medical-device tax is a “job killer” that stifled growth and innovation.
Although the tax has been delayed twice, Paulsen said eliminating the tax is necessary to bring certainty to small device firms that cannot attract venture capital investment due to the possibility the tax would return.