EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 23, 2014

Brown attacks medical device tax in Salem visit

Shaheen agrees, but approaches differ

By Doug Ireland
direland@eagletribune.com

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SALEM — U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Republican candidate Scott Brown may not have a lot in common, but they do agree on one issue.

The nation’s 2.3 percent tax on medical devices must be repealed.

But they differ on how it should be eliminated. Brown believes the entire Affordable Care Act should be axed while Shaheen has supported amendments to the act.

The former Massachusetts senator voiced his opposition to the tax during a visit yesterday to Gamma Medica Inc. in Salem, a medical imaging firm.

“It’s just a money grab to help fund Obamacare,” Brown said. “You fix it by repealing it.”

Brown and his wife, Gail Huff, toured the 29-employee company with Gamma Medica executives, including president and CEO Jim Calandra.

The company, which opened on Manor Parkway in July, specializes in the development of equipment used to detect breast cancer.

Calandra, who called the tax a bipartisan issue, told Brown the levy is expected to cost his company about $150,000 this year.

It would prevent him from hiring at least two employees or investing further in research and development, he said

“This is an issue that really means something to us,” Calandra said. “It’s a big impact — it’s 2.3 percent off the top line.”

Gamma Medica has developed 15 breast-imaging devices that are in use across the country, Calandra said. The 16th will be installed at Salem Radiology in June, he said.

Screenings cost about $200, he said, and are an ideal alternative for women who cannot receive an MRI because of a pacemaker or other health complications.

Each device is worth about $400,000. Gamma Medica is expected to earn $5 million to $6 million in sales this year, Calandra said.

Brown said the tax is a frustration voiced by other medical companies across the state, including Next Step Bionics and Prosthetics in Manchester.

“It’s a job killer,” he said.

Brown said states, not the federal government, are best able to manage health care.

“This is part of how Obamacare is hurting businesses in New Hampshire,” Brown said. “I think the states can do it more efficiently.”

He said the Affordable Care Act is preventing people from receiving easier access to low-cost health care.

Although Shaheen also opposes the tax, Brown questioned the senator’s efforts to eliminate the measure through amendments.

While speaking to reporters, Brown also chastised Shaheen for her support of the act, accusing her of not reading the legislation.

After Brown’s hourlong visit, state Democrats issued a statement critical of Brown’s call to repeal the Affordable Care Act, saying it would hurt Granite State residents who would benefit through the expansion of Medicaid.

“If Scott Brown had his way, 58,000 people across New Hampshire wouldn’t stand to be receiving health care coverage under a bipartisan plan to expand Medicaid," N.H. Democratic Party spokeswoman Julie McClain said. “Brown’s ‘repeal’ agenda may work for the likes of Big Oil’s AFP and Wall Street special interests, but here in New Hampshire, it would be devastating for 58,000 people.”