Politics

Elizabeth Warren’s ‘Hearing Aid’ Bill Proves She’s a Crony Capitalist

Proposed legislation rewards campaign contributors like Bose by labeling their amplifiers as medical devices

Elizabeth Warren: progressive stalwart or crony capitalist?

Warren’s latest bill to increase the FDA’s regulatory power over hearing aids for millions of Americans is the latest indicator of her true crony capitalist intentions.

Warren introduced the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 in March, which, on the surface, sounds great. I mean, who wouldn’t want to increase access to medical devices for seniors?

The problem is that these aren’t even medical devices; they’re sound amplifiers that are already available over the counter for anyone to buy. Under the guise of increasing access to over-the-counter hearing aids for seniors, Warren cleverly paved the way for her big donors to sell personal sound amplification products (PSAPs) as hearing aids.

These devices are commonly used to amplify sounds for outdoor and indoor activities, and are more closely related to headphones than to hearing aids. Big donors such as Bose, which is headquartered in her home state of Massachusetts, spent no less than $50,000 this year lobbying Warren and other legislators to have the FDA reclassify these devices as ‘hearing aids,’ when they are anything but.

Warren’s bill opens a whole new market for these speaker companies, allowing them to re-brand their products as medical devices subject to FDA regulation. In doing so, they trick the consumer into thinking they’re getting a solution to a problem that affects nearly half of seniors, when it can often have the exact opposite effect.

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True hearing aids are medical devices and should be treated as such. Most people wouldn’t just pop a random pair of prescription lenses on and walk out of the store. An individual with common sense would go to a physician for an eye exam, and then get fitted for lenses there. Why should we treat hearing devices any differently?

The bill’s first sentence leaves no ambiguity as to its intended effect, which is “to provide for the regulation of over-the-counter hearing aids.” Make no mistake, this is a ploy by industry giants to unfairly increase their profits at the expense of seniors.

The House version of the bill recently passed, and was conveniently packaged into an FDA user fee bill. Hopes of stopping this bill now lie with the Senate, where Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine) have vowed to reform it.

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With its history of decreased safety, higher prices, and lack of innovation, the FDA is the last agency that should be given more power over the American consumer. We should be decreasing the power the FDA has to regulate hearing devices, not increasing it. The worst part is that some Republican senators, as well as a bipartisan group of House members, have signed on to this crony capitalist bill.

Warren’s bill is typical of big government bureaucrats, who sell the idea of increased consumer access to consolidate their own power. This bill is not simply against free-market principles: It will hurt the very people it is designed to help.

Peter Van Voorhis is a conservative activist, commentator, and journalist. He is a weekly contributor to iHeartRadio’s PowerTalk 96.7FM.

(photo credit, homepage image: Edward Kimmel, Flickr)

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