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Senate Bill Exempts Hearing Aids from Device Tax

Coalition Effort Continues as House and Senate to Merge Legislation

The Senate has released a health reform proposal that will likely attract the 60 votes required for passage, although the process will require several procedural votes before a final vote on the bill is possible. The proposal continues to exempt FDA Class I medical devices (including hearing aids) from its $20 billion device tax provisions. The House has already adopted a 2.5% medical device tax proposal that would base exemptions on whether a device was sold at “retail.” Hearing aids would almost certainly be taxed if the House proposal were adopted by Congress. HIA and allied organizations will now focus on negotiations between the House and Senate that will determine the final shape of health care reform including what version of the tax will be adopted.

HIA and allied hearing health organizations had joined with other medical device groups to contact Senate leadership last week to support final Senate adoption of the Class I exemption. The device tax is one of the many highly controversial aspects of health reform. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Evan Bayh (D-IN) had proposed an amendment that would have altered provisions of the device tax if adopted; however, it would not have altered the Class I exemption. HIA is working closely with hearing health champions in the Senate to insure that they are fully aware of the implications of the Class I exemption on hearing aids.

As part of the focus on the House/Senate conference, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) contacted every Representative last week to solicit their support for a letter to Speaker Pelosi in support of the Class I exemption. Rep Dina Titus (D-NV), another hearing health champion, was the first Rep. to add her support to Rep. McCarthy’s effort. 200 members of the Nevada AGBell chapter thanked Rep Titus for her support of the hearing aid tax credit at an HIA-sponsored breakfast last August.

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