WASHINGTON — Members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation on Tuesday assailed President Barack Obama’s health care law and mandates on everything from alleged violations of religious freedoms to increased taxes on medical devices.
U.S. Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden, filed joint legislation on Tuesday called the “Health Care Conscience Rights Act” that would allow businesses to withdraw from key parts of the president’s health care law, sometimes called Obamacare, for religious reasons such as not wanting to insure employees for morning-after contraception pills. The bill also would allow doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers to refrain from participating in medical procedures, like abortions, that they are opposed to on conscientious or religious grounds.
U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, chaired a hearing Tuesday on the “tax-related provisions” of Obama’s health care law that spent time criticizing what opponents often refer to as the president’s hidden taxes. Boustany is the chairman of the U.S. House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee that organized the hearing.
Boustany argued the health care law creates more than $1 trillion in new taxes on businesses and families, including the 2.3 percent tax hike on medical device companies’ revenues.
“The new medical device tax is particularly destructive, as it targets one of the few remaining industries where America continues to lead the world in innovation,” Boustany said. “This is an industry in which companies often go years without making a profit, hoping to survive long enough to reach profitability and introduce innovative life-saving medical products. But the new tax hits employers regardless of profitability, and has already resulted in layoffs and additional delays in new products reaching the market.”
Obama has argued that the tax helps increase coverage to nearly 30 million more Americans, many of whom will buy more medical devices through new coverage and increase the customer base and revenues of the medical device companies.
The medical device tax does not apply to normal retail items like eyeglasses, contact lenses and hearing aids.
U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., countered Boustany by arguing that Obama’s health care law is expanding coverage to millions of more citizens, including many younger Americans and many with preexisting medical conditions.
“I note that this hearing focuses on provisions that impose taxes on industries that benefit from the law and wealthy Americans,” Lewis said.
“This one-sided view does not examine other provisions in the law that deliver hundreds of billions of dollars of federal tax credits to millions of American families and small businesses. These tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies will make health insurance affordable for millions of middle-class Americans and families.
“Countless others now have peace of mind, knowing they are not just one step away from losing their health insurance when it is needed most,” Lewis added.
Boustany said the health care law saddles businesses with “burdensome new rules and taxes that dis-incentivize hiring new employees and provides economic incentives to reduce employee hours and drop health insurance coverage altogether.”
Fleming filed his new “conscience” bill with U.S. Reps. Diane Black, R-Tenn., and Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb.
Fleming called the bill a First Amendment protection bill to protect the constitutionally provided “freedom of religion, which is really freedom of conscience.”
After previously clashing with Catholic nonprofit organizations and hospitals about insuring contraception, the president reached a compromise to partially exempt them.
But Fleming argued Obama’s compromise is narrowly tailored and applies only to specific religious institutions, but not the followers of those religions.
One such example is the ongoing fight of Hobby Lobby, which is suing to avoid having to insure employees for things like the morning-after contraception pills because of religious beliefs.
Fleming said his bill applies “conscience rights” to “Obamacare”
“We’re seeing our conscience rights freedoms eroded right before our eyes,” Fleming said.
“Here we are today with people threatening your jobs, threatening the life of your business for not going along with the morality of government itself dictating to American citizens what they should consider to be a moral viewpoint and what they shouldn’t,” Fleming added.