Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Bill to Tax Flu Vaccine Reintroduced in House; Already Passed Senate

    On January 6th, I reported that legislation to add seasonal flu vaccines to the definition of taxable vaccines had been introduced in both houses of Congress.  The House version was introduced in December, so it died in committee when the 112th Congress adjourned.  However, an identical bill was introduced in the Sentate by Max Baucus in early January and passed by unanimous consent with no discussion.  Now the bill has been reintroduced in the House (H.R. 475) by Republican Jim Gerlach, the same representative who sponsored the original bill.

    The purpose of this legislation is to make sure seasonal flu vaccines are subject to a 75¢ per dose tax imposed already on many vaccines by Section 4131 of the IRS code.  The tax funds the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.  Here is what I noted about that fund in early January:
    Although the taxes raised by the vaccine tax go into a "trust fund," this trust fund, like most government trust funds, is on paper only.  According to the most recent report on the fund, November 2012, the balance in the fund is nearly $3.5 billion.  (Since the program's inception in 1988, the fund has paid out only $2.5 billion in 25 years for cases involving all vaccines, not just the flu vaccine.  The balance in the fund could conceivably last another 25 years with no further tax revenue.)   The $3.5 billion balance, of course, is "invested" in "US Treasury Securities."  In other words, financing a portion of the $16.5 trillion national debt.
     Also from my January post:
Due to the lack of explanation accompanying the bill, I am only speculating.  But as drug companies struggle to keep up with new and mutating strains of the influenza virus, this bill widens the definition of "taxable vaccine" to make certain that any and all attempts to fight present and future iterations of the flu are subject to the 75¢ per dose tax.  Given that the Centers for Disease Control projects that 135 million doses of flu vaccine will be used this year, Congress is protecting the government's $100,000,000+ take on flu vaccines alone.
     As I mentioned above, this legislation flew through the Senate in a day without any debate.  Its future in the House it uncertain, but the Senate's response gives no reason to suspect there is much controversy about it. I will continue to monitor the bill's progress.

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