Elizabeth Warren says part of the healthcare law should be repealed

Elizabeth Warren — the liberal icon challenging Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) — said she would support repealing part of President Obama’s healthcare law.

Warren said in an op-ed that Congress should repeal the health law’s tax on medical devices. Massachusetts is home to several large device companies.

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The healthcare law’s device tax will hit small, innovative firms especially hard and cause them to roll back their research budgets, Warren wrote in the trade publication Mass Device.

“With an appropriate offset, we can repeal the medical device tax without cutting health care coverage for millions of people or forcing Americans to fight the whole health care battle all over again,” she said.

Warren’s race against Brown is among the most competitive in the country, and it could tip the balance of power in the Senate.

She is not the first Democrat — or even the first liberal Democrat — from a device-industry state to criticize the tax. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) fought the proposal during the healthcare debate. But he voted against Brown’s proposal to repeal the policy in 2010. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) has also been critical of the tax.

The 2.3 percent tax on device companies is expected to raise about $20 billion over 10 years. Congress imposed a handful of simple excise taxes, including a similar fee on pharmaceutical companies, to help cover the cost of the health law. Although other industries came to the table to negotiate the terms of their fees, device makers repeatedly walked away from negotiations and took a hard line against any new fees.

Warren — who helped establish Obama’s controversial new financial regulatory agency — also called for a more lenient regulatory approach at the Food and Drug Administration.

“There is no greater problem facing the medical technology industry than the decline in FDA performance in recent years,” she wrote.

The industry has complained that over-sensitivity to safety concerns is keeping life-saving products off the market.

“The FDA works hard to keep patients safe, and let's be clear: its work saves lives,” Warren’s op-ed says. “But the FDA needs to be able to put life-saving devices on the market quickly. Delays and regulatory uncertainty don't just hurt companies – they hurt the patients and families who rely on those devices.”

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