Effort to repeal health reform tax gains steam

Ubl said the top priority for AdvaMed is working with the Food and Drug Administration to streamline and make more predictable the approval process for new medical devices, which the industry says takes several years longer than in Europe. The industry group plans to demand improvements to the federal agency when it negotiates the renewal of user fee legislation that funds the FDA and is up for reauthorization next year.

"We're very concerned that the agency is not meeting its performance targets," he said.

He also said that AdvaMed is joining the healthcare industry chorus against the healthcare reform law's Medicare Payment Advisory Board, which requires cuts to Medicare payments if prices grow faster than a set target.

"We have long-standing concerns about IPAB," Ubl said, "and are likely to join other stakeholders in the healthcare area to work towards its repeal."

Beyond that, the health reform tax is also a high priority for 2011.

Ubl said the debate has changed since the healthcare reform debate, and efforts to repeal the tax are taking off. 

"Now we're in a different environment," Ubl said. "I think it's entirely possible to support repeal for the tax, particularly in light of the renewed focus on economic growth and jobs, without undermining some of the positive provisions within the law."

So far, two House Democrats have joined Republican bills repealing the tax and a third has said he agrees with repealing the provision.

Pennsylvania Reps. Jason Altmire and Tim Holden, both of whom voted against healthcare reform last year, are co-sponsors of a tax repeal bill introduced by Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.).

Altmire is also a co-sponsor of legislation introduced by Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.). Sister legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

None of those three bills are paid for.

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), whose state is among the national leaders in medical device innovation, announced Monday his intention to introduce legislation that would eliminate the tax and pay for it with unobligated and unspent federal dollars. 

"The medical device tax is another provision in Obama's healthcare bill that is particularly bad for Massachusetts," Brown said in remarks at a local chamber of commerce event, "and I am introducing a bill to repeal the medical device tax without increasing the deficit. The medical device industry in Massachusetts is critical to our economy, and our state cannot afford this tax."

Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.), who ran in the Democratic primary for Sen. Edward Kennedy's seat, said Monday that he agreed with Brown's medical device tax repeal proposal.

That and repealing the 1099 tax reporting requirement "are two things I agree with him on," Capuano said, reports State House News Services. "There's lots of places we can find agreement, the senator and others tried to repeal the entire bill. If they want to talk about details, I'm happy to talk."

Another paid-for tax repeal is pending in the House. 

Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) is expected to reintroduce next week a bill he fought for last year that would pay for repealing the tax through medical malpractice reforms.