MDMA Election Panel Discusses Medical Device Industry Strategy
Kevin Madden, chief advisor to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and Karen Finney, MSNBC political analyst, gave a presentation May 31 on the political strategy and the state of the election during the first day of the 2012 Medical Device Manufacturers’ Association (MDMA) Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. The session could not have been more timely: It was during a moment of rare bi-partisanship, seen in the recent passing of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration user fee legislation in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives with overwhelming majorities. Madden and Finney’s discussion on past partisan politics had a backdrop of hope in light of the passage of the Medical Device User Fee and Modernization Act.
One of the most pertinent questions from the audience came from Michael J. Daley, Ph.D., president of tiGenRx LLC, based in New Hope, Pa. “They don’t trust us,” he said, not only of the consumer base for medical devices, but also of the general public. “We save lives, we make money – but according to surveys, we’re right next to lawyers in terms of perceived trustworthiness. Twenty years ago, we were right at the top. We’re not the cause of excessive healthcare costs, but that is the perception.” Using what he saw as his chance to glean from the expertise of two top political strategists, Daley asked them for their advice on a strategy to gain the public’s trust back in the medtech industry. “What can we do to elevate our image?” he asked.
“Remind customers, who are essentially your “base,” what their investment is and what your value is,” replied Madden. “Remind them just what a device is and what goes into a routine healthcare visit, and what the cost would be otherwise.” Madden presented an economic argument, economics being a factor that causes bases to band together.
“Look at best practices from other industries,” he continued. “Big Oil have turned themselves into energy companies. They’re getting beyond just drilling and pulling petroleum out of the ground. They have new technologies, new ways to expand energy exploration. People are more willing to engage with that story.”
Reinvention does not have to be purely material. Rhetoric plays an important part, both Madden and Finney agreed. “They are personalizing that story,” Finney said of Big Oil. “What does that mean for the people who utilize your products and services? When it isn’t personal, it’s easy to vilify a whole industry.”
It’s true, as one medtech industry worker who deals with Washington, D.C. policy making said during lunch: “Public relations people have job security in the medical device industry.”
Another audience member wanted to hear Madden and Finney’s predictions and opinions on all the legislation surrounding the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act.
“We still have the problem of what to do about health reform. There are people already in the new health care system,” Finney pointed out. “With re-legislation, what would happen to them?”
Re-legislation, Finney and Madden said, would be harmful to President Obama’s campaign. Besides, they noted, people are tired of it. “Generally, people don’t want to re-litigate it,” Finney said.
A part of the Affordable Care Act that no one in the medtech industry wants to see materialize is the medical device excise tax set to begin in 2013. During MDMA’s sessions on May 31, a bill repealing the 2.3 percent tax passed through the U.S. House of Representatives' Ways and Means Committee during a mark-up session with a vote of 23 to 11. The bill now goes to a floor vote.
MDMA President and CEO Mark Leahey praised lawmakers for passing the legislation and said the tax represents a “perfect opportunity” for political bipartisanship.
“Today marks the first step towards repealing the 2.3 percent device tax,” Leahey said in a statement. “MDMA has long said that the device tax would hamper job creation and unfairly punish the dynamic American success story that is medical technology innovation. The growing price tag of this onerous tax is further proof that it will lead to more layoffs, larger cuts to R&D and less innovation – a perfect storm of unintended consequences. This issue not only impacts one of the United States’ most innovative industries, but it is a perfect opportunity for Congress to work in a bipartisan manner to support the common goal of renewed job creation. Simply put, the medical device tax will hurt manufacturing, stymie job growth and impede patient care, all at a time when we can least afford it.”