Sales tax for HME: 'It's a thorn in our sides'

Saturday, March 31, 2007

OLYMPIA, Wash. - An association that represents providers in Washington has launched its fourth campaign to exempt prescribed home medical equipment from the state sales tax. The Pacific Association of Medical Equipment Services convinced state Rep. Ross Hunter, D-48th district, to introduce a bill in the House of Representatives in mid-January that would exempt prescribed HME from the state's 8.6% to 8.9% sales tax.
The face of the bill, provider Tom Coogan, likes his chances of finally succeeding in 2007.
"We've made so much contact with legislators over the years--they were standing in line to co-sponsor this year's bill," said Coogan, vice president of Care Medical Equipment, which has locations in Washington and Oregon, and president-elect of PAMES.
Also working in the association's favor: Hunter chairs the powerful Finance Committee, where the bill currently sits. Additionally, the association has succeeded in tucking its initiative into the belly of a larger bill that aims to streamline sales taxes statewide. At press time, H.B. 1324 had 13 co-sponsors, including Hunter. A Senate version of the bill was introduced Jan. 26; it has five co-sponsors.
Like PAMES, the Kentucky Medical Equipment Suppliers Association also seeks to pass a bill this year that would exempt prescribed HME from the state sales tax. It's KMESA's second year trying, said Tom Underwood, the association's executive director.
"We have a sponsor," he said. "The bill just hasn't been introduced yet."
Both associations' efforts have been slowed down over the years by legislators who can't stomach, due to escalating costs and shrinking budgets, even the smallest losses in revenue. Right now, in both states, some HME is taxed and some isn't. For example, in Kentucky, the state doesn't exempt CPAP machines, but it exempts hoses and masks.
"It's a thorn in our sides," said Underwood, who, like other providers in Kentucky and those in Washington, ends up footing the bill.