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Medical Device Group Makes Last-Minute Push

Industry Working to Kill $40 Billion Tax Plan

The Medical Device Manufacturers Association has launched a radio and print ad campaign aimed at prodding Congress to drop fees proposed for medical devices as part of the health care overhaul effort.

The $200,000 ad buy, which is running this week, is relatively modest compared with the multimillion-dollar media campaigns underwritten by the drug and insurance industries to influence the health care debate.

But MDMA President Mark Leahey said that with an annual operating budget of $1.5 million, the group had to limit its efforts to reaching the lawmakers when they are in Washington, D.C.

“It’s late in the game,— he said. “We would love to have a $5 million buy and run national ads. But we need to be as targeted as possible.—

The spots have been placed in Capitol Hill publications, including Roll Call, Congressional Quarterly and Politico, as well as on local news radio station WTOP.

The ads claim that patients and innovation will suffer if Congress goes through with imposing the tax. The Senate Finance Committee’s health care bill included $40 billion in levies on the devices over 10 years.

A Senate aide responded that the Finance Committee imposed the tax after medical manufacturers and others in the health care industry went to the White House in May and agreed to chip in to shave medical costs.

“Medical device manufacturers stand to benefit enormously from health insurance reform, and the Finance proposal asks them to contribute a reasonable portion of that benefit — savings they pledged to President Obama and the American people at the White House,— said the Senate aide who spoke on background.

The device fee would apply to manufacturers of complex nonretail devices, not for individual consumer products such as Band-Aids and Q-tips, the Senate aide said.

As part of the health care negotiations with the Finance Committee, the pharmaceutical industry has agreed to $80 billion in concessions over 10 years, and hospitals said they would provide $155 billion in savings over a decade.

Leahey said that while he had heard that the final bills may halve the amount of medical device taxes to $20 billion over 10 years, that would still not be acceptable to his industry.

“I don’t think there is any fee we would accept,— he said. The industry will still end up paying more after any overhaul is approved because of planned cuts in hospital payments, Leahey said.

“We are clearly paying our fair share under other elements of the bill,— he said.

The MDMA reached out to a politically connected firm for help on the campaign.

The spots were put together with the help of Kevin Madden of the Glover Park Group. Madden was an aide to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and former GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney.

Aside from the radio and print spots, Leahey said his association has been bringing executives from medical device companies to Capitol Hill to speak with their local lawmakers.

The Medical Device Manufacturers Association spent $270,000 on lobbying in the first three quarters of this year, according to lobbying reports filed with the Senate. In addition, the Advanced Medical Technology Association, a larger medical device group, shelled out more than $1.4 million on lobbying.

Wanda Moebius, a spokeswoman for AdvaMed, said her group has been trying to educate lawmakers about the negative effects of the tax.

“More than 30,00 letters and phone calls were sent to Congress,— she said.

Medical device companies have some powerful allies in Congress, including lawmakers from states such as California and Minnesota, where many people are employed in the industry.

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