Room for daylight on medical device tax repeal?

April 18, 2013 by Brad Perriello

Treasury secretary Jacob Lew gives a sliver of daylight to the medical device tax repeal movement during testimony before a Senate budget panel this week. coverage of the medical device tax

Supporters of repealing a 2.3% levy on all U.S. sales of medical devices got a sliver of daylight this week after U.S. treasury secretary Jacob Lew said there might be room to revisit the tax.

"Maybe there's a way of looking at it differently than the way it was designed," Lew told Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) during testimony before the Senate budget committee April 16.

Ayotte asked the treasury chief if President Barack Obama supported repealing the tax, citing a recent bipartisan but symbolic vote in the upper chamber to repeal the tax.

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"There's not much around here that we get 79 votes for in the Senate," Ayotte said. "I hope [Obama] would commit to working with both sides of the aisle on overturning this tax."

But Lew's seeming willingness to revisit the tax came with some leavening.

"It's always a dangerous business to reopen something when it's a critical funding element in a complicated piece of legislation," he said. "We all agree that having the best technology available for our patients is a very high priority. It's also important to note the dramatic increase in the cost associated with the reimbursement for these medical devices. ... I would only point out that [the medical device industry] has been a very profitable business."

And in order to ditch the tax, a pay-for replacing the lost revenue would have to be found, Lew pointed out.