Support for the medical device industry appears to be growing on Capitol Hill after the relaunch of a Senate medical technology caucus by Sens. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Amy Kloubchar (D-Minn.).
Brown, one the GOP’s brightest stars, and the liberal Klobuchar may seem like strange bedfellows. But both represent communities where the medical device business has sunk deep roots. Minnesota and Massachusetts combined are home to the U.S. headquarters of most of the top 10 medical device companies in the world, accounting for more than 100,000 jobs.
The caucus will focus legislative attention on the medical technology sector, according to the senators. A few of their pet issues are likely to be the 2.3 percent medical device excise tax contained in the national healthcare reform law and changes to the 510(k) program afoot at the FDA.
Brown has been a staunch critic of the medical device tax, telling MassDevice last year that it amounted to a levy with no purpose or rationale.
“A 2.3 percent tax just because?” Brown told us. “For some of these companies, that’s their entire net profit. That’s jobs, it’s R&D, it’s a whole list of other things. It’s not a necessary tax.”
Klobuchar has also been vocal in her displeasure with the tax. She helped lead an effort to amend the bill when it was before the Senate in 2010. The legislators have also worked together on issues facing the medical device sector to push the FDA “to reform its slow and inconsistent 510(k) approval process,” according a release put out by Brown’s office.
“In Massachusetts, we have more than 200 medical device companies and hundreds of bio and pharma companies, all of which provide good-paying jobs to thousands of citizens,” Brown said in prepared remarks. “It is critical that we provide a business environment for them to innovate, grow and thrive. I’m pleased to be the Republican chair of this bipartisan caucus, and look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to give our medical device and technology companies the tools and resources they need to continue their important work.”
Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) launched a similar effort in the House of Representatives in early March.
Industry reps quickly applauded the move as more proof of burgeoning support on The Hill for the med tech industry.
“Today’s re-launch of the Medical Technology Caucus will help ensure there is a strong bipartisan coalition in the Senate with a special focus on promoting medical technology innovation, patient access to quality care, and the international competitiveness of America’s medical technology industry,” Stephen Ubl, AdvaMed’s president said in a prepared release.