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.
Cheney noted that Addington did not keep the letter in the office since he was worried something could happen to it so he kept it at home. Cheney said Addington’s house caught fire and after his family was safe, Addington ran back in to get the letter.
Cheney was also asked if he believes he would have received a heart if he were not a former vice president.
“I went through the process that everybody else has to go through,” he said. “The normal waiting time is 10 to 12 months. I waited 20 months.”
Dr. Reiner said “there’s no way to game the system” and Cheney “absolutely” would have received a heart regardless of his VIP status.
Moderator Barbara Cochran, president of the National Press Club’s Journalism Institute, asked Cheney about his daughter Mary’s wife publicly criticizing his daughter Liz, who is running for Senate, over the issue of same-sex marriage.
“We were surprised when there was an attack launched against Liz on Facebook and wished it hadn’t happened,” Cheney said.
“It’s always been dealt with within the context of the family, and, frankly, that’s our preference.”
Cochran started to ask a follow-up question and Cheney shot back, saying, “I’ve gone as far as I’m going to go on the subject; don’t waste your time.”
Liz Cheney is running against incumbent Wyoming GOP Sen. Mike Enzi. She recently expressed support for traditional marriage on Fox News; in response, her sister Mary and her wife, Heather Poe, criticized her on Facebook.
“Liz has been a guest in our home, has spent time and shared holidays with our children, and when Mary and I got married in 2012 — she didn’t hesitate to tell us how happy she was for us,” Poe wrote on November 17. “To have her now say she doesn’t support our right to marry is offensive to say the least.”
Mary Cheney said, “Liz – this isn’t just an issue on which we disagree – you’re just wrong – and on the wrong side of history.”