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  • COMMENTARY: Warren the Hypocrite – Carrying Water for Venture Capitalists and Massachusetts Companies

    About once a day, “Native American” Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) denounces businesses with tweets like this one:

    Her rank partisanship, race-baiting and class-warfare inciting platitudes have made her a pariah among conservatives but that begs the question – why would a bill sponsored by Elizabeth Warren have a snowballs chance in hell to pass the Republican Senate?

    Yet is appears her effort to help a major Massachusetts-based corporation and a group of venture capitalists is on the verge of success.

    Warren has attached her legislation called the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 as an amendment to the Prescription Drug Uniform Act (PDUFA), which is soon scheduled to make it to the Senate floor.  The bill federalizes hearing amplifying devices to allow Bose Corporation and Doppler Labs who want to market low priced hearing aids but cannot do so without a change in the law.

    Reason magazine noted:

    Crucially, Warren’s legislation instructs the Department of Health and Human Services secretary to redefine what a PSAP is, with the goal of shifting more PSAPs into this new, more regulated OCT hearing aid category. At minimum, regulation would drive up the cost of PSAPs. And depending on how onerous those new regulations are, many devices would fail to meet the new standards.

     To no one’s surprise, makers of high-end PSAPs have been lobbying hard for the bill. TechCrunch reports that Doppler Labs—a tech start up that produces a $300 PSAP known as Here One—has been working closely with Warren.

    Doppler also hired KR Liu—a member of the Consumer Technology Association’s standards committee on PSAPs—to be its director of advocacy and accessibility in 2015. The Consumer Technology Association has since endorsed and promoted passage of Warren’s bill.

    Bose—maker of the PSAP the $499 “Hearphones“—has spent roughly $50,000 on lobbying for the OTC Hearing Aid Act this year, according to lobbying disclosures. Records from 2016 also show Bose spending $100,000 lobbying on “issues related to the FDA,” though no specific legislation is listed.

    Warren claims her bill will deregulate the industry.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  As twenty conservative groups have noted in a letter to Congress:

    Sen. Warren claims that she wants to create an all new over-the-counter (OTC) category for personal sound amplification products (PSAPs). However, it turns out this claim is misleading at best, if not completely disingenuous. Sen. Warren’s bill expands the power of federal bureaucrats, eliminates state authority, and reduces consumer access to amplification devices by making them more expensive and highly regulated. That’s not how she advertises the bill, but that’s how it would be described if truth in labeling laws applied to Congress.

    Today, without her proposed law, there are PSAPs legally available at Best Buy, Wal-Mart and thousands of other stores and outlets for very reasonable prices.  Anyone can buy these devices.  They simply amplify sound — not for people with medical hearing loss — but for those who want to amplify sound. Some use them for bird watching, others to snoop on conversations that are ordinarily out of ear shot.

    As you know, these PSAPs are different from medical hearing aids in that hearing aids are designed for people who have medically measurable hearing loss and require a doctor to help determine the cause of the hearing loss and the most appropriate way to correct the problem. All hearing loss isn’t the same. So doctors play an appropriate role in helping the patient find and tailor the right solution. These medical hearing aids are not used for snooping or songbird listening. They are specifically tailored to the patient.

    The bottom line is that PSAPs are not medical hearing aids and they don’t need to be regulated like medical hearing aids. But Sen. Warren wants to subject PSAPs to FDA regulation and explicitly lock states out of any role in the process, and then designate these PSAPs as available “over-the-counter” as if that were some big, new innovation — conveniently failing to mention that they are already available to anyone at thousands of stores.”

    Regardless Warren’s claims, why would the GOP help her?  Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) is carrying the Warren bill in the House.  She has attached the Warren language to the House version of PDUFA despite the facts and vast conservative opposition.  House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) is a strong free market proponent and might be the last line of defense in the effort to stop the Warren federalization of the hearing aid industry and prevent Warren from passing legislation through a GOP Congress.


    Cloakroom Confidential

    Cloakroom Confidential

    Cloakroom Confidential was a longtime Capitol Hill staffer and insider who has contacts in the House and Senate at the highest levels.

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