When President Obama signed a huge tax and spending law to keep the government running and avoid a year-end budget showdown, there were a few things tucked into the $1.1 trillion law that directly impact people in chronic pain – namely medical marijuana, veterans who need opioids, and tax breaks for medical device manufacturers.
DOJ to Back-Off on Medical Marijuana Criminal Action
The bill blocks the Department of Justice from taking criminal action against individuals and organizations that are licensed in states that have passed medical marijuana laws.
“The federal government will finally respect the decisions made by the majority of states that passed medical marijuana laws,” said Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) to The Huffington Post. “This is great day for common sense because now our federal dollars will be spent more wisely on prosecuting criminals and not sick patients.”
Veterans in Need of Opioids for Pain Management
The bill directs the Veterans Administration to adopt the highly controversial opioid prescribing guidelines drafted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“To address mounting concerns about prescription drug abuse and an overdose epidemic among veterans, the bill directs the VA to adopt the opioid prescribing guidelines developed by the Centers of Disease Control, to develop IT systems to track and monitor opioid prescriptions, to ensure all VA medical facilities are equipped with opioid receptor antagonists to treat drug overdoses, and to provide additional training to medical personnel who prescribe controlled substances,” outlined Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) in a press release.
With the growing controversy around CDC’s prescribing guidelines, concerns mount from advocacy groups that Veterans will have increased challenges obtaining the pain medication they need.
Read more about the controversy here.
Medical Device Tax Breaks May Increase Technology Development
The bill created a two-year suspension of Obamacare’s medical device tax, which manufacturers had long argued dampened research and development efforts. The suspension will pump $3.9 billion into the industry over two years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.
“We are grateful that Congress was able to come together to preserve U.S. jobs and medical innovation by delaying the device tax for two years,” said Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA) Board Chairman Nelson Mendes, president and CEO of Ziehm Imaging Inc. in a press release. “The bipartisan cooperation we’ve seen gives us hope that policymakers will continue their work to fully address the device tax for employees, patients and advocates across the country who have been impacted by its harmful effects.”
The bill also included a permanent R&D tax credit for medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturers. The tax credits allow start-up companies and other small businesses to use part of their R&D tax credit to reduce their payroll taxes.