Mona Charen

Everyone agrees that the burden of dealing with escalating health care costs should not fall on the most vulnerable, right? Democrats in particular are always at pains to convince us that they are sensitive to the needs of the less fortunate. Yet among the many new taxes Obamacare will impose is one that hits wounded veterans and sick children especially hard -- the 2.3 percent annual tax on medical device manufacturers set to begin in 2013.

All of those fantastic prosthetic limbs, powered wheelchairs, stents, pacemakers, artificial hips, and other miraculous technologies that improve the lives of maimed soldiers will now be more expensive. Some estimates suggest that the tax will amount to 17 percent of profits for the industry.

As Ed Morrissey reported last May, Massachusetts medical device companies have already begun to plan layoffs to cope with the new tax. According to the Massachusetts Medical Device Industry Council, "(A)bout 90 percent of the 100 medical-device firms said they would reduce costs due to the new tax tucked into the recently passed health-care reform bill."

Almost certainly, this will mean reductions in research and development. As the maxim goes: If you want less of something, tax it. If you want more of something, subsidize it. By taxing medical devices, Obamacare has probably postponed the day my 17-year-old Type I diabetic son is most looking forward to -- the invention and marketing of an artificial pancreas.

In Type I diabetes, the pancreas, probably as the result of an autoimmune process that is incompletely understood, abruptly ceases to produce insulin (whereas in Type II diabetes, the far more common type, the body gradually loses its ability to use insulin). Our son was 9 when he was diagnosed. Normal blood sugar is between 60 and 120. David's was over 700 when we checked him into the hospital. Without daily injections of insulin (it cannot be taken by mouth), along with multiple finger sticks to check blood sugar levels, Type I diabetics would sicken and die.

The first wearable insulin pump was invented by a Los Angeles physician in the 1960s and was so large it had to be carried in a backpack. Today's versions are about the size of a cell phone and easily slide into a pocket. Through an infusion site inserted three times a week under the skin, pumps deliver a steady dose of insulin 24/7. The user also "boluses" or gives himself extra insulin every time he eats based on carbohydrate counting. Modern pumps also help diabetics with the complicated calculations of dosages based on activity level, carbs consumed, the presence of ketones, and other variables.


Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
 
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