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House repeals medical device excise tax

June 12, 2012
By CHRIS MORRIS - Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Medical device manufacturers are applauding House representatives for repealing a 2.3 percent excise tax on products ranging from cotton swabs to CT scan machines.

The vote has been applauded by device manufacturers, politicians and congressional candidates alike, although some question why it was ever approved in the first place.

The House voted 270-146 last week to repeal the tax. The new bill, called the Protect Medical Innovation Act, was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, after a medical device manufacturer from Clinton County told him the tax would have a negative impact on his business. Owens voted for the health care law, often called Obamacare, in 2010.

The Senate is considering the bill this week, although President Barack Obama has threatened to veto it.

Owens said in a prepared statement that after discussing the tax with the individual from Plattsburgh, he decided there were "better ways to pay for expanding health coverage."

The bill had bipartisan support. U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, said a study of the tax found it could result in the loss of 43,000 jobs and possibly double the industry's tax bill.

"Without repeal, this tax will have a devastating effect on our local companies, potentially causing layoffs and stopping projected growth," Gibson said in a press release.

Eric Kraus, senior vice president of Covidien, a health care products manufacturer, said the tax would have resulted in companies cutting back on research. He said he was pleased with the House for repealing it.

"In addition, the tax would limit job growth, result in higher healthcare costs and harm U.S. global competitiveness for the industry," Kraus said in a prepare statement.

Owens told the Enterprise that when debate of the health care law was taking place two years ago, his constituents didn't raise any concerns about the medical device excise tax.

"Every day on the floor of the House, (we) are considering measures that amend legislation," he said. "That is a very normal part of the process. The fact that we're going back and looking to amend the legislation is not a surprise, and anyone who represents it as being a surprise does not understand how congress works."

Matt Doheny, a businessman from Watertown and Republican challenger to Owens in this year's congressional election, applauded the Democrat for responding to a constituent's concern and helping repeal the tax. But the praise stopped there.

Doheny said he questions why Owens voted for the tax in the first place.

"I don't really particularly believe the assertion from our current congressman that no one spoke out," he said. "Maybe no one spoke out in Plattsburgh. But there was certainly a whole industry that knew that that was going to be a penalty on them and it was going to be a job-killing penalty."

Kellie Greene, another Republican hopeful in this year's congressional race, struck a similar tone. She said repealing the excise tax is a good start, but also advocates for repeal of the entire health care law.

"We are all familiar with the drug commercials where they list all the side effects that are possible and often wonder why on earth we would take a drug that sounds worse than the problem it is supposed to solve," Greene told the Enterprise.

Greene said the health care law is "riddled with problems" that Congress has been forced to correct or repeal. She said lawmakers should have taken more time to get it right the first time.

"If the members of Congress don't have the time to adequately read and research the bills for which they are voting, then they shouldn't be voting," Greene said.

Green Party candidate Donald Hassig did not respond to requests for comment on this issue.



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