Will incoming Mass. Senator Warren keep true to pledge to repeal medical device tax?

Elizabeth Warren

Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren will be expected to live up to a campaign pledge to help repeal the medical device tax now that she’s won a coveted position representing the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, one of the nation’s largest medtech hubs.

Warren replaced a "visible leader" in defeating challenger Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), and she needs to make good on promises she made to repeal the 2.3% excise tax hitting medical device makers in January, Zoll Medical CEO Rick Packer told industry officials in Boston Wednesday.

Warren vowed her support for medtech tax repeal efforts in an April op-ed for MassDevice, writing that "when Congress taxes the sale of a specific product through an excise tax, as the Affordable Care Act does with medical devices, it too often disproportionately impacts the small companies with the narrowest financial margins and the broadest innovative potential."

"Is it a tougher [fight for repeal] today?" Packer said, reflecting on the race. "If Elizabeth Warren is true to her word, then it should not be."

Warren made news this past spring when she wrote that "the government also plays a critical role in speeding – or slowing – the pace of innovation. Three changes in government policy are essential: a more efficient regulatory system at the FDA, repeal of the medical device tax, and an increased national commitment to research and education."

Those words, which were picked up by news outlets all over the country, have been key in the device industry’s argument that repealing the medical device tax is a bi-partisan issue, rather than a pet GOP project.

"While Scott Brown was a visible leader in the repeal fight, Warren has said she understands the tax will hurt industry," Packer said.

He added that the movement to repeal the tax won’t be hindered by last night’s election results, promising that this is still "a real fight and a fight worth fighting."

"We believe there is a lot of movement in the Senate," he said. "I don’t think that momentum has been hurt by the turn to the left the country took last night."

The Zoll CEO, who serves on the board of the Medical Device Manufacturers Association or MDMA, said he will be part of a legislative fly-in to Washington, D.C. next week with both MDMA and AdvaMed to continue to press the issue with lawmakers. Industry officials are expected to move quickly to get repeal in the mix as part of the so-called fiscal cliff negotiations and are confident they have the votes in the Upper Chamber for a repeal.

Packer has had some success in lobbying legislative leaders. He was part of a group who helped convince Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.) to vote in favor of a bill in the House of Representatives last June as has been an active voice for the industry in the device tax debate. Zoll Medical was highlighted by several publications as the example of a company which would be most affected by the tax.

Packer was also a vocal supporter of Brown in his successful election campaign in 2010. In fact, it was a visit to Zoll’s headquarters that winter which helped propel Brown as a visible champion of medical device makers and he has often credited Zoll officials as helping to open his eyes to the evils of the impending levy on the industry.

Tom Sommer, President of the Massachusetts Medical Device Industry Council or MassMEDIC was optimistic about working with Warren now that she is the Senator-elect and told MassDevice.com that the local industry is hopeful she’ll live up to her words. MassMEDIC was recently successful in helping claw back parts of the Commonwealth’s gift ban, which applied to medical devices. In that case, the industry council made sure Gov. Deval Patrick kept his campaign promise to loosen the restrictive gift ban.

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