Legions of dentists have joined the device tax repeal fight

Legions of dentists have apparently helped raise a fight to repeal the 2.3% device tax to its current prominence in the national debate--the latest twist in the ongoing conflict.

We've all heard about how med tech industry grade groups such as AdvaMed have pushed the issue heavily in Congress to the point that the medical device tax has become intertwined with the ongoing congressional battle to fund the government. The tax is designed to help fund the Affordable Care Act, and Republicans' insistence on a tax repeal or a delay in implementing the law in exchange for passing a bill to fund the government led to its shutdown on Oct. 1. As The Wall Street Journal reports, the American Dental Association has become a powerful behind-the-scenes advocate for the tax's repeal.

The article points out that more than 66% of dentists in the U.S. belong to their state dental associations, which, in turn, feeds into the American Dental Association and its lobbying efforts in D.C. A number of dentists are also in Congress, the story notes, and members of the profession tend to be reliable political donors in general.

While it hasn't always been mentioned, dentists expect to deal with their own fallout from the device tax. The ADA has been pushing the issue with members of both branches of Congress, according to the story, arguing that the tax will boost dental care costs by $160 million annually. Expectations are that medical device manufacturers, producers and importers will pass the extra cost onto dentists.

As the story notes, dentists buy a wide range of medical devices, from imaging machines to high-speed drills, dental implants and crowns. Hospitals, nursing homes and insurers have all expressed concerns that they'll face extra costs from the tax, the article reminds us, but dentists have a stake in this, too.

It's unclear whether a device tax repeal will be successful, at least in the context of reopening the government and raising the debt limit. At this point, however, it seems likely that a device tax repeal will stay high on Congress' radar screens, and the dental industry's major lobbying group has helped make that happen.

- read the WSJ story (sub. req.)

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