Obamacare and Health Care

As Dr Scott Atlas, of Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, in a recent The Wall Street Journal op-ed noted,

  • Private company medical innovation R&D spending in the US the last three years averaged 2.1%, down from an average of 6% over the previous fifteen
  • Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, India, and the EU had greater R&D spending growth in the same period
  • The PRC had a growth rate of 22%

Certainly, those other polities, the EU excepted, were starting from a much smaller base, and so their growth rates will tend to be exaggerated. Certainly, too, our own historically weak economy is exacerbating the situation.

All that notwithstanding, though, this is a trend that is allowed to continue at the peril of our leadership in things medical. Obamacare, with its removal of the insurance aspect of health plans, actively hurts this. What plan can pay for the latest and best drugs or devices, and so drive innovation—or even those drugs or devices that are merely near the cutting edge, or that are middle tier—when those plans aren’t allowed to recoup their costs, except at generalized taxpayer expense?

There’s one aspect, though, that is a direct assault on medical innovation, and that’s Obamacare’s medical-device excise tax. This is a tax the takes 2.3% off the top—that is, before expenses and profit—of all medical device sales. This includes devices from heart pace makers to dialysis units to bandages sold in bulk to hospitals.

2.3% is no big deal?

  • Johnson & Johnson’s medical device and diagnostic sales were down 1.5% in the US, versus up 1.8% internationally, in the first half of 2014
  • General Electric reported that the US healthcare sales shrank by 2% in the second quarter, versus up 2% in Europe
  • Medtronic’s US sales for the 2014 fiscal year were up 1.7%, versus 5.9% internationally
  • Baxter reported US sales of medical products were down 15% for the quarter ended June 2014, versus up 8% globally
  • Fresenius’ US sales of dialysis products were down 1.2% in the first half of 2014, versus up 0.6% internationally

And (via the first link above)

Boston Scientific, Stryker, and Cook Medical have announced job cuts and plans to open new centers for R&D, manufacturing, and clinical trials overseas.

And so on.

Many attempts have been made to repeal this pernicious tax, the latest this past summer. The Democrat-controlled Senate refused to consider it. Again.

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