Washington state

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

OLYMPIA, Wash. - The Pacific Association for Medical Equipment Services (PAMES) has taken a fresh approach to fighting an 8.6% sales tax, on average, for durable medical equipment.

In January, companion bills were introduced in the state Senate and House of Representatives that would enforce a law that requires insurers to include the sales tax for DME as a separate line item in their payment plans.

"In essence, what's happening now is they're not paying it," said Bob McLellan, president elect of PAMES and the government relations and corporate compliance officer for Pacific Coast Medical Supply in Astoria, Ore. "As a result, it's being passed along to beneficiaries."

Previous bills to exempt DME from sales tax never went anywhere, because state legislators couldn't--and still can't--afford to go without the revenue, about $30 million.

Association officials argue that passing SB 6273 and HB 2673 would not only maintain but also increase the state's coffers.

"There's about $84 million that's being compromised as of 2004," said Robert Lee, the legislative liaison for PAMES. "By passing these two bills, the state will be able to collect sales tax revenue that's being evaded."

Association officials point out that not all insurers skip out on the sales tax for DME--the state's Medicaid program, for example, pays it.

"What we're saying is, 'What's good for the state should be good enough for other insurers,'" McLellan said.