Tariffs on imaging equipment could raise providers’ costs

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As trade tensions mount between the U.S. and China, talk of a tariff hike on some Chinese products could affect the prices of some medical imaging equipment and apparatus.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) on April 3 proposed to raise the tariff by 25 percent on a list of 1,300 Chinese products; the tariffs are first subject to a comment period before they go into effect. The list includes electromagnets used for MRIs and most of the metal parts needed to make medical imaging and scanning equipment.

Other items listed for potential tariffs include:

* Electrocardiographs

* Printed circuit assemblies for electrocardiographs

* Parts and accessories of electrocardiographs, other than printed circuit assemblies

* Ultrasonic scanning electro-diagnostic apparatus used in medical, surgical, dental or veterinary sciences

* Magnetic resonance imaging electro-diagnostic apparatus used in medical, surgical, dental or veterinary sciences

* Scintigraphic electro-diagnostic apparatus used in medical, surgical, dental or veterinary sciences

* Electro-diagnostic apparatus for functional exploratory examination, and parts and accessories

* Electro-diagnostic patient monitoring systems

At this time, the Association for Medical Imaging and Management “does not have a position or a comment” on the proposed tariffs, says Brittany Ruggiero, marketing and communications manager for AHRA, a trade organization representing management at all levels of hospital imaging departments, freestanding imaging centers and group practices.

“The upshot is, it’s not a good idea no matter how you look at it,” says David Levin, MD, a radiologist at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, of the tariffs, which would undoubtedly drive up the costs of CT and MRI machines that typically cost $1 million or more.

“It’s already difficult for hospitals to keep updating their machines to the state-of-the-art, and obviously that’s what hospitals want to do,” he adds.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said April 3 that the Trump administration’s proposed measures to raise tariffs under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 are justified and come as a response to China’s recent “unfair acts related to technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation.” The proposed tariffs follow a new USTR detailed investigation that reveals China’s actions are harming the U.S. economy, Lighthizer said.

President Trump said March 22 in his Memorandum on Targeting China’s Economic Aggression, “If they charge us, we charge them the same thing. That’s the way it’s got to be. That’s not the way it is. For many, many years — for many decades, it has not been that way.”

The U.S. proposed tariff must first go through a comment period, ending May 11. “No tariffs will go into effect until the respective process is complete,” Lighthizer said.

The tariff proposal can be found here.

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