Posts Tagged ‘tax’
By Matt Murphy, State House News Services
As Congressional Republicans ready their assault on President Barack Obama’s health care reform law, Bay State Sen. Scott Brown said Monday that he would file legislation to chip away at the bill by repealing the medical device tax that he said will stymie job growth in Massachusetts.
The 2.3 percent excise tax on medical device manufacturers is scheduled to go into effect after Dec. 31, 2012. While Brown has previously called for the tax’s repeal, his pitch Monday as part of a broader legislative agenda to grow jobs in Massachusetts refocused attention on a potential point on common ground between the Republican and would-be challengers in 2012.
Brown, delivering a speech to the North Suburban Chamber of Commerce in Woburn, named the medical device tax one of two provisions in the law – along with the expanded 1099 tax expenditure reporting requirement on businesses – that he will file legislation to repeal in the new session.
“The medical device tax is another provision in Obama’s healthcare bill that is particularly bad for Massachusetts, and I am introducing a bill to repeal the medical device tax without increasing the deficit. The medical device industry in Massachusetts is critical to our economy, and our state cannot afford this tax,” said Brown, who has also supported efforts by House and Senate Republicans to repeal the entire bill.
U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano, a potential Brown challenger who ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary after the death of former Sen. Edward Kennedy, said Monday he was supportive of both changes, though he disagreed with Brown on overall repeal.
“Those are two things I agree with him on,” Capuano said. “There’s lots of places we can find agreement, but at the same time, the Senator and others tried to repeal the entire bill. If they want to talk about details, I’m happy to talk. If they want to repeal the bill, I will not vote for the repeal of the bill. I will not cost the government that much money. I will not deny health care to any single American.”
Obama and some Congressional Democrats have indicated a willingness to make changes to the health care law, including alterations of an expanded tax reporting requirement that will flood businesses with new paperwork. The health care bill includes a requirement that all companies issue 1099 tax forms to any individual or corporation from which they buy more than $600 in goods or services in a tax year, apart from the typical contract workers who must receive and fill out those forms.
Following the signing of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in March 2010, Dr. Thomas Sommer, president of the Massachusetts Medical Device Industry Council, warned that the tax could lead to layoffs or a reduction in spending dedicated to research and development of new products.
Sommer said device manufacturing is a $7.5 billion-a-year industry in Massachusetts, employing 21,000 people and contributing 10 percent of the state’s exports. The 225 device manufacturing companies in Massachusetts produce $6 billion in annual sales, he said at the time.
“It means that companies will need to make a choice whether to pass that price increase along to consumers or to absorb it themselves,” he said. “If we pass it along to customers, then we’re not doing anything about containing health care costs.”
Gov. Deval Patrick on Monday resisted being drawn into the long and ongoing debate on the medical device tax.
“That’s something I’m very sensitive to because we have a strong medical device industry here. My understanding is they were at the table working with Sen. Kerry in the development of the original bill,” Patrick said. “I don’t think I want to give or ought give a seat-of-pants reaction. I’m all about trying to strengthen our industry here.”
Sen. John Kerry’s office could not immediately be reached for comment, but Senate President Therese Murray said he hoped the Massachusetts delegation would take a look at revising the tax.
“I would love to see some kind of change on the medical device portion of the health care bill because it’s a big portion of the companies we have here,” Murray told the News Service. “I just met with a new start-up company that’s going to be manufacturing here. That would be a good thing for us. I don’t know what the financial impact would be on the overall bill, but hopefully it’s something they’re looking at.”
The debate over tweaking aspects of the federal health care overhaul came on a day when a federal court in Florida struck down Obama’s health care law as unconstitutional, joining a Virginia judge who previously said the federal government lacks the Constitutional authority to mandate that citizens to purchase health care.
The requirement that citizens purchase health insurance or face tax penalties was modeled off of the Massachusetts health care reform law passed by the Legislature in 2006 and signed by Gov. Mitt Romney. Despite being credited with helping to insuring over 98 percent of the state’s populations, critics of the federal law such as Romney have argued that the decision to mandate health coverage is one best left to the states.
“I don’t even want to get into that,” House Speaker Robert DeLeo said when asked whether he would urge the state’s delegation to Washington to consider repealing the tax in light of its potential impact on jobs. “I think that’s a federal issue and I’ll leave that up to them. I think we’ve got our issues with what we can do right here in Massachusetts.”