U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) is hoping to achieve something rare these days in Washington, D.C.
He's hoping to gain bi-partisan support for his proposal to repeal an excise tax on the revenues of medical device companies imposed this year under the Affordable Healthcare Act.
Sen. Alexander says it's already costing Tennesseans thousands of jobs. Republicans legislators in Washington continue to try to peel back the Affordable Healthcare Act one layer at a time before it's fully implemented in 2014.
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They've found a powerful ally in the form of medical device manufacturers feeling the sting of an excise tax they say is costing them and their suppliers millions in revenues.
As the senior senator has learned to let few issues get under his skin, the former Tennessee governor came to Memphis on Thursday with what he hoped would be a healing message for embattled medical device manufacturers and their subsidiaries in the Bluff City.
The business group has found itself on financial "pins and needles" since the multi-million dollar medical device excise tax kicked in at the start of the year. Sen. Alexander charges the measure, as part of the Affordable Healthcare Act, has become a Tennessee job-killer.
"That tax is causing us to lose thousands of jobs and it's raising the cost of medical care for people all over the country,' he said.
Before he took a tour of the Memphis-based Onyx Medical Corporation, responsible for developing and manufacturing the pins, wires and screws used by surgeons in hospitals across the country, Sen. Alexander noted the importance of the medical device industry.
He cited the 4,000 high-paying jobs created by Memphis medical device companies have helped to make it the fastest growing industry in Tennessee. But, with the new 2.3 percent excise tax on companies revenues, dwindling profits have created a "trickle down" effect being felt through the whole industry.
"It puts pressure on the major suppliers and then the smaller suppliers, like where I am today, who sell to the major suppliers," he said. "That pressure goes all the way down to the bottom of the line. It makes it more difficult for the company to prosper and hire more people.
"A lot of Americans are going to lose their employee sponsored healthcare because their employers are not going to be able to afford to buy it,' the senator added. "They're going to prefer to pay a penalty, and then these employees are going to find themselves in these new exchanges buying more expensive healthcare insurance."
But, while Alexander and his Republican Senate colleagues hope for a second bite of the apple to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act after the midterm elections next year, Alexander says he's found bi-partisan support to rollback the excise tax for medical device manufacturers - even though it would potentially require a governmental "transplant" of millions.
"It'll have to be replaced so that we don't add to the debt," Sen. Alexander said. "I don't know where that will come from. But, with 79 Senators voting to repeal the tax, it's chances are pretty good."
In a published report last week former Memphis judge and television personality Joe Brown was listed as a possible Democratic opponent to challenge Sen. Alexander in 2014.