Can a LinkedIn Group with Over 100,000 Members Help Get the Device Tax Repealed?

Rarely has an issue so galvanized the U.S. medtech industry as the medical device tax, which is slated to go into effect next year. The 2.3% tax, included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, has been the subject of criticism in numerous op-ed pieces, penned by everyone to politicians to executives at major device firms.

Brian Buntz

April 24, 2012

3 Min Read
Can a LinkedIn Group with Over 100,000 Members Help Get the Device Tax Repealed?

Joe Hage

Earlier this year, Joe Hage, the owner of the “Medical Devices Group” on LinkedIn, published a thread from a medical device professional asking if anything good could possibly result from the “tongue depressor tax.” Comments rolled in decrying the tax and its effect on the industry in the United States.

It eventually became apparent that the device tax was “the single issue that people in the industry are the most vocal about,” he says.

So Hage decided to do something big: Set up a website with the intent of getting 25,000 signatures on a petition to repeal it. “I sought to give my members a more constructive outlet than grousing,” he says. 

At the time of writing, there were nearly 1,500 signatures listed on the site and the number is increasing steadily. The “Medical Devices Group” on LinkedIn, which now has nearly 109,000 members, also continues to grow in size—with as many as 500 new names added on some days. 

Hage says that the website and the movement it is working to engender is an appropriate response to the device tax, which could lead to the elimination of 43,000 U.S. jobs and $3.5 billion in lost wages, according to one study. “Companies that are not even profitable will have to pay the tax, too,” he says.

Inspiration for the Effort

In setting up the site, one of Hage’s inspirations was the Kony 2012 campaign to hunt down the Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony. “Everything about that effort was spectacularly done,” he says, pointing out that a YouTube video promoting the cause received more 80 million views.

The day the site was launched, Hage received a call from the Office of Congressman Erik Paulsen (R-MN), a vocal critic of the tax. Paulsen's office gave Hage some concrete steps he could take to help shore up support for the device tax repeal in the Senate.

The “Medical Devices Group” on LinkedIn now has nearly 109,000 members. 

Within the first week following the launch of the online campaign, 90% of visitors to the site came from the United States. The site also will have the ability to report who signed the petition based on their state and zip code.

In 2011, Medical Device Manufacturers Association (MDMA) created a petition protesting the tax that received roughly 400 signatures, which they sent to Congress. “That is almost a year ago. I am sure it still has impact but it is kind of old news now,” Hage says. “What if we were to kind of brush it off and say: remember that letter? Well, here is another 25,000 people who feel the same way.”

One of the things that sets the petition apart from the one sponsored by MDMA is that it was borne out of a grassroots movement, Hage says. “This isn’t just at the CEO level. This is the petition where individual families who would be affected adversely by this tax can say, I am your constituent, and I want my voice to be heard.”

The site is now supported by Cook Medical. Hage is currently looking for other companies to join the effort.

Brian Buntz is the editor-at-large at UBM Canon's medical group. Follow him on Twitter at @brian_buntz.

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