Cheney: Medical Device Tax 'One of the Dumbest Ideas' in Obamacare

WASHINGTON -- Former Vice President Dick Cheney called the medical device tax under Obamacare “one of the dumbest ideas” he’s ever heard.

“I worry very much about the device tax,” Cheney said at the National Press Club on Tuesday night.

“This is a new tax, a new tax that’s going to be imposed on medical devices. I think that’s one of the dumbest ideas I’ve heard of and I feel very strongly about it. I’m literally walking around proof about how great, of how innovative our healthcare system has been. I can’t imagine anything worse -- well, I’m sure I can, but I think it’s just an example of how ill-conceived parts of this program are.”

The 2.3 percent tax took effect at the beginning of 2013 and is expected to raise approximately $29 billion over the next 10 years as a way to pay for the healthcare law.

A 2011 study funded by AdvaMed, an industry trade association, estimated that the medical device industry could lose 43,000 U.S. jobs due to the tax, the Fiscal Times reported. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle whose districts are particularly affected have proposed repeal of the tax.

Cheney cited the creation of stents to support his position on the medical device tax. Julio Palmaz invented the balloon expandable stent with the help of $250,000 from Phil Romano, founder of Fuddruckers and Macaroni Grill. The idea was eventually patented and bought by Johnson & Johnson.

“The initiative and incentive for them to do that and make it happen didn’t come from the government; it was something they put together themselves and now under Obamacare we’re going to tax makers of the devices,” Cheney said.

Cheney also said he was uninsured at one time but for most of his life he was covered by a Blue Cross Blue Shield plan while in public service.

“There was a time in my life when I was about 23, shortly before I got married, when I got sick, hospitalized and had no health insurance. I spent our honeymoon money on medical bills,” he said.

Cheney added that the Blue Cross Blue Shield plan “basically financed” all of his healthcare; when he left the White House, he went on Medicare.

Cheney’s comments were made during a discussion about the book he co-authored with his cardiologist Dr. Jonathan Reiner, called Heart: An American Medical Odyssey.

During the book discussion, Cheney told the audience that he wrote a letter of resignation addressed to the secretary of State in case he had a life-threatening heart attack. Cheney said he gave it to his chief legal counsel, David Spears Addington, since there was no legal way under the Constitution to remove an incapacitated vice president.

“If the need ever arose, if I ever reached a point where I was no longer able to function as the vice president, then I wanted him to present that to the president,” Cheney said, adding that Addington and Bush were the other two who knew of the letter.