Never Letting a Good Deed (Device) Go Unpunished (Unregulated)

In a Forbes magazine column, “K Street Capers,” Brian Wingfield reviews some of the lower-profile issues on which business associations lobby, such as the unintended consequences of Iran sanctions, foreign-made plastic flowers and mixed-martial arts.

And lithium batteries. We wrote yesterday how the new health care law taxes one of U.S. industry’s great success stories, medical devices, forcing manufacturers to cut jobs and investment. (“Never Letting a Good Deed (Device) Go Unpunished (Untaxed).”) Federal regulators are also working to make it more expensive and difficult for the industry to operate in the United States.

Batteries. Makers of lithium ion batteries and medical-device producers are fuming about a proposed Department of Transportation rule they claim will drive up the distribution costs to power cellphones, e-readers, pacemakers and insulin pumps by $8.5 billion during the next decade. The regulation would classify all lithium batteries as hazardous materials when transported by cargo plane–requiring special storage easily accessed by pilots in case of fire–and forcing manufacturers to get safety certifications for battery design. A pending transportation bill sponsored by House Transportation Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar (D–Minn.) would impose similar restrictions.

Meanwhile, the trial lawyer lobby is still trying to stimulate more speculative lawsuits against device makers, pushing the Medical Device Safety Act, which would replace consistent federal safety standards under the FDA with a more exploitable regulatory regime under 50 state court systems. (The bills are S. 540, originally introduced by Sen. Edward Kennedy.)

Too many federal officials claim to support U.S. manufacturers but then enact laws and regulations that disadvantage the same manufacturers in global competition. In the case of medical device manufacturers, they have to be wondering, “What’s next?”

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