Commentary: Protect patient care and critical jobs by repealing the medical device tax

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) University of Utah MRI Tech Michael Reading positions 11-year-old Bryce Hortin in the machine that will periodically capture images of his brain over a 10-year study. At the U of U, psychology professor Deborah Yurgelun-Todd aims to enroll 1,000 Utahns into a study that will ultimately include 12,000 across the country to monitor kids in their preteen and teen years

Before the development of medical imaging technology, the ability of patients and their health care providers to fully understand serious ailments was severely limited. Today, thanks to high-quality, real-time imaging, doctors can perform incredibly complex surgeries with confidence.

As the leader of GE Healthcare’s surgery business in Salt Lake City, I witness on a daily basis the importance image guided surgery for improving health outcomes and understanding disease.

Despite our immense progress, inaction from Congress could stifle life-saving innovation in medical technology. Permanent repeal of a 2.3 percent excise tax on medical device sales has passed the U.S. House but has stalled in the U.S. Senate, threatening investment in research and development as well as jobs right here in Utah. If fully implemented, the medical device tax would have severe consequences on the economy and job growth.

Already, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, 29,000 jobs have been lost nationwide as a result of the device tax, and they predict more jobs will be lost if the tax remains.

In early 2018, Congress passed yet another two-year suspension of the tax, but suspensions are temporary and still burden medical device manufacturers in Utah, many of them small businesses, with uncertainty. How can we ask these companies to take on the risk of exploring potentially life- saving innovations or investing in new employees with this tax looming?

Permanent repeal, which has already passed the House with broad bipartisan support, would lead to increased investment in the development of more life-saving medical technology. Nearly $10 billion is invested annually by medical device companies on research and development and a recent survey has indicated that many would further increase that investment with repeal of the device tax.

There is no field where invention and innovation are more critical than in the medical world. Medical devices are changing the way we treat, care for and understand our health and our bodies. Congress must repeal the medical device tax immediately, allowing the U.S. to continue to lead us forward in healthcare innovation.

Gustavo Perez-Fernandez

Gustavo Perez-Fernandez is president and CEO of GE Healthcare Image Guided Therapies in Salt Lake City.

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