EXCLUSIVE: Sen. Elizabeth Warren will seek industry’s help on medical device tax repeal

Elizabeth Warren

Newly elected Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is looking to talk with medical device makers about ongoing efforts to repeal the medical device tax, although she has yet to sign her name to a new Senate bill to do just that, she told MassDevice.com today.

Warren is eager to protect U.S. manufacturing, she told us, but is wary of putting her support behind a tax repeal bill that doesn’t include a "pay-for" to make up for the lost revenue the tax collects.

"I want to talk to the industry so they understand my basic position, and that is we should never increase taxes on the manufacturing that we’re trying to develop in this country," she said in an exclusive interview with MassDevice.com. "So I’m very much there, but I want to talk to the industry about it."

Warren a favorite among liberals, won her seat in November’s election against incumbent Sen. Scott Brown (R), an active supporter of the medical device industry who made opposition to the medtech tax a high-profile plank in his platform. Warren has voiced her support for medical device makers and for the ongoing effort to repeal the 2.3% levy created by the Affordable Care Act, perhaps most notably in an exclusive editorial she wrote for MassDevice.com in April 2012.

Late last year, Warren added her name to a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), asking along with 17 colleagues for a delay in implementing the tax, which nonetheless took effect at the start of the year. Thus far 2 payments of nearly $100 million each have been made, according to medical device industry lobbyists.

Despite her past support, Warren has yet to sign on to a new Senate version of the repeal bill introduced Feb. 6to complement a 2nd House bid introduced just the day before.

Warren explained to MassDevice.com today that her hesitation to sign the new Senate bill may hinge on how lawmakers plan to make up for the estimated $30 billion in revenue the tax is supposed to create. She’s working with fellow Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) to hash out the details, she added.

The lack of a pay-for was a sore spot for many Democrats in both Houses of Congress. Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) told MassDevice.com late last year that she, too, was looking to medical device business leaders to work out a way to repeal the medical device tax without losing funding for healthcare reform.

A repeal bill that passed the House last year would have axed the tax using an 11th-hour pay-for that would have cut back on some of the subsidies designed to make health insurance more affordable for low- and mid-income households. Democrats were not enthused and the Senate never took up the issue after the tax repeal bill passed the House on a 242-173 bipartisan vote. Still, Democrats who otherwise voiced support for repealing the tax took exception to the pay-for.

Lawmakers and industry lobbying groups have yet to unveil a new plan for paying for repeal.

"I’ve had this conversation with Senator Klobuchar to, in part, try to understand the strategy of advancing a bill that doesn’t have a pay-for in it," Warren told us. "That’s one of the things I want to talk to industry about. But the basic principle is that we should not be taxing the industries we’re trying to develop – that’s what guides me on this."

Warren spoke with us shortly after touring The Mass. Medical Device Development Center, also known as M2D2, at the U-Mass.-Lowell campus. M2D2 is an incubation center for small medical device companies, providing access to university resources and fee-based services including prototype development and business services.

Warren’s last visit to the campus was in October 2012 for a debate with then-incumbent Sen. Brown as they stumped for a seat in the 113th Congress.

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