In this month’s Washington Report, Julie Scott Allen, a government relations director in the Government and Regulatory Affairs Practice Group of the law firm Drinker Biddle & Reath, presents a strong case for the repeal of a part of the Affordable Care Act that, in January, will impose a 2.3% excise tax on medical technology companies. Presumably, the makers of the medical devices would pass some of the expense on to their customers, including clinical laboratories. She tells how several organizations representing the interests of clinical laboratories have been lobbying Congress to introduce legislation to repeal the medical device tax. She writes, “Much of the clinical laboratory community, which is already dealing with a 1.75% direct cut and a productivity adjustment…as a result of the health reform law, has said ‘enough is enough.’ ”
As I was reading and editing the piece, I thought about adding the conventional editorial disclaimer—something like “the views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and editors of Medical Laboratory Observer….” But I decided to address the issue in this space instead—and, at the same time, to raise a broader issue that this “Washington Report” brings up.
First of all, the views expressed by Ms. Allen indeed do NOT necessarily reflect those of the publisher and editors and production team of MLO. Frankly, legal requirements aside, I have never understood why periodicals find it necessary to make that disclaimer. I doubt that many readers today think that every idea expressed in a magazine is one that the people who produce the publication endorse. Those of us who bring you MLO each month all have our own opinions about the Affordable Care Act, and its various provisions, and what should or should not be done now that the Supreme Court has upheld its constitutionality. In publishing Ms. Allen’s article, we are informing readers about the medical device tax and what some organizations are doing in response to it. We are reporting on an instance of advocacy—we are not advocating anything ourselves.
That said, I would also add the following: Almost every factual article, in MLO or any worthwhile periodical, is, in some sense, also an opinion piece. At the very least, the author is expressing the opinion that his or her subject is something that is worth writing—and reading—about. Beyond that, for example, Richard Rogoski’s article on Laboratory Information Systems (“Tweaking the LIS,”) has a point to make: that it is valuable for clinical labs to know about the trends and options in LIS to make informed decisions. Dr. Fernando Chaves’ article (“Platelet morphology: reliable technology doesn’t require duplication,”) has a point to make: that with the economic challenges facing labs today, the more complete clinical utilization of existing tests is crucial. Dr. Masih Shokrani’s Continuing Education story
(“Inflammatory bowel disease: diagnosis and research trends”)
asserts that better diagnosis and management of IBD serve both the patient and the lab. The articles on next generation sequencing and nucleic acid testing are largely scientific in nature, but they also are arguing a point—that the new techniques are not only coming, but are here, and thus are things that laboratorians must know about. Every article teaches us something, but also tells us why we need to learn it.
Indeed any “factual” article worth reading is giving you more than “just the facts”; it is also giving you a context—scientific, social, economic, institutional—in which to understand those facts. And providing those contexts for the readers of MLO does reflect the views—and the purpose—of those of us who are honored to have the opportunity to put the magazine together.