While most healthcare stakeholders have slowed their spending on Washington lobbying, one sector has cranked up the pressure—the medical-device industry.
Device manufacturers and their trade group, fervently seeking to repeal the Affordable Care Act's medical-device tax, spent nearly $33 million last year on Washington lobbying, more than any other year going back to 1998, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
That growing outlay is notable because spending on overall healthcare lobbying has waned since the 2010 passage of the healthcare reform law. The devicemakers hope to persuade Congress to repeal the ACA's 2.3% excise tax on medical devices. The tax is projected to raise $26 billion over 10 years to help pay for the law's coverage expansions. In the past five years, medical-device companies have spent more than $150 million on lobbying efforts in Washington, according to the CRP, a not-for-profit that focuses on increasing government transparency.
The device industry has been an outlier among healthcare interests in fighting against the ACA. While hospitals, drugmakers and insurers all negotiated a financial contribution in terms of taxes or reduced payments, device manufacturers never agreed to the excise tax.
It's widely expected that even if the device industry succeeds in pushing the repeal through Congress, which is iffy, President Barack Obama would veto a standalone repeal bill. That means any successful repeal most likely will have to be part of a broader spending deal between the White House and congressional Republicans. Or it could be part of negotiations over restoring or extending the Obamacare premium subsidies if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes them down in June.