The House of Representatives is scheduled Tuesday to consider a bipartisan bill to add new seasonal flu vaccines to the IRS definition of taxable vaccines. The Senate has already reached an agreement to vote on its version of the bill without further debate if the House passes an identical version. If passed into law, all new flu vaccines would become subject to the 75¢ per dose vaccine tax, and also become eligible to be included in the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). A summary of the bill provided by the House Republican Conference explains:
The VICP is a federal program designed as a no-fault alternative to traditional tort law for resolving vaccine injury claims arising from covered vaccines. The program is funded through a 75¢ excise tax on each dose of specified vaccines. However, current law only covers “trivalent” (three-strain) vaccines against influenza. Recently, many manufacturers have begun producing more effective “quadrivalent” (four-strain) vaccines, but have held off on bringing the vaccines to market until the statute is updated. H.R. 475 amends the statute to cover all seasonal influenza vaccines under the VICP, ensuring that new, more effective vaccines are made available to the greater public.
The balance in the VICP fund as of May 2013 was about $3.4 billion. The fund has paid out only $2.7 billion since it was established in 1988 for cases involving all vaccines; about 17 percent of those cases involved a flu vaccine. At that payout rate, the $3.4 billion balance could last another 25 years with no new revenue. However, in response to initial reports on the legislation in April, Julia Lawless, GOP press secretary of U.S. Senate Finance Committee, issued the following statement:
First off, the Joint Committee on Taxation is clear this bill is not a tax increase. Secondly, the legislation is about ensuring vaccine manufacturers produce vaccines for the next flu season – not past flu seasons. Thirdly, the threat of litigation has been so severe against these manufacturers that this compensation fund had to be created or they would not have produced these vaccines. That threat of litigation still exists and so does the need for vaccines. We need to be careful how that fund is financed, because having it run a deficit could be dangerous when our goal is to ensure the production of safe vaccines.
A representative of the Biotech Industry Organization emailed to weigh in as well, and largely echoed the response of Ms. Lawless, concluding with:
This is an extremely important public health matter.
The issue before Congress is whether the newest seasonal influenza vaccine will be covered by the VICP in time for the 2013-14 flu season.
The other issue raised by the article about the balance in the fund is an entirely separate matter that would require in-depth analysis by experts in the field[.]
The documentation accompanying the proposed legislation does not indicate whether or not any such analysis of the fund has been conducted. The tax on flu vaccines raises about $100 million each year. The "trust fund" is invested in U.S. Treasury securities, helping to finance the national debt.
President Obama is attending three Democratic fundraisers today. One in Boston, Massachusetts, and two more at private homes in Miami, Florida. He'll return to Washington later tonight.
"In the morning, the President will travel to Boston, Massachusetts. The departure from the South Lawn and the arrival at Logan International Airport are open press," the president's public schedule reads.
The New York Times reports today that New Jersey governor Chris Christie, a Republican, is considering setting a special election for the vacant New Jersey Senate seat ahead of the already scheduled November election. This move, as the Times reports, could cost around $24 million:
Supporters of President Obama’s overhaul of American medicine are touting the early evidence from California’s Obamacare exchange (still under construction) as good news for their side. But as the Los Angeles Timesnotes, the Golden State’s version of Obamacare will mean higher insurance premiums and a lower qu
On Thursday, the White House's administrator for federal procurement policy, Joe Jordan, wrote on the White House blog about a legislative initiative that President Obama is sending to Congress next week "to stop excessive payments to Federal contractors." Jordan continues:
Later this evening, President Barack Obama will head to his hometown of Chicago to attend two Democratic party fundraisers aimed to help his party help win back the House of Representatives from the Republicans.
"In the afternoon, the President will travel to Chicago. The departure from the South Lawn and the arrival at O’Hare International Airport are open press," Obama's schedule reads.
During Tuesday’s hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D., Calif.) declared that failing to encourage people to sign up for government-mandated health insurance is downright “un-American.” Speier was referring to Congress’s refusal to fund the Obama administration’s Obamacare “outreach” efforts with taxpayer dollars (although the administration will still be running lots of taxpayer-financed pro-Obamacare propaganda ads later this summer with money that it has managed to cobble together from various sources).