In their first joint appearance, U.S. Sen. Dan Coats and Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock spent a campaign stop Friday attacking Mourdock's opponent for a health care provision he doesn't even support.
After a tour of the C&A Tool plant in Churubusco, the two Republicans tried to link U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Granger, with a tax on medical devices set to go into effect next year as part of President Obama's health care law.
“The medical device tax as part of Obamacare is a terrible thing…that threatens jobs right here in Churubusco,” Mourdock said. The 2.3 percent tax is set to take effect in January and is expected to raise some $2 billion annually to help pay for the health care law.
About 25 percent of C&A Tool's business comes from making medical devices, such as surgical tools and prototype artificial joints, owner Dick Conrow said. The company employs more than 400 people and added about 100 jobs last year, he said.
But even though Donnelly voted for the health care reform law, he has publicly opposed the medical device tax since 2009 and is co-sponsoring a bill making its way through the House that would repeal the tax.
“Joe co-sponsors the bill to repeal the medical device tax, and I don't think it's particularly honest of them to try to assign a different point of view to him,” said Ben Ray, a spokesman for the Indiana Democratic Party.
In October 2009, Donnelly and 16 of his colleagues sent a letter to House leadership in opposition to the $4 billion annual tax as proposed by the Senate. In a statement at the time, Donnelly cited the 18,500 Hoosiers employed by the medical device industry.
“We agree that health reform is needed and should be paid for, but this proposal threatens to crush the very industry that could save billions of dollars in the healthcare system,” Donnelly and his colleagues said in the letter to then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Then-Indiana congressmen Brad Ellsworth and Baron Hill also signed the letter, which argued the tax could cripple research and development work by device makers. Industry giants Biomet, DePuy and Zimmer are all headquartered in Warsaw.
The bill repealing the medical device tax passed the GOP-controlled House Ways and Means Committee Thursday and could see a vote by the full House sometime in the next week.
On Friday, Coats pointed to C&A Tool's growth – from a start-up based in Conrow's garage to a thriving company that employs hundreds – as an all-American success story that could be threatened by the tax.
“We need to make sure federal policies don't stifle things like this from happening right here in Indiana,” he said.
If the tax does go into effect, medical device makers would likely just raise their prices, passing the extra costs on to consumers, Conrow said.