The Salem News — Congressman John Tierney found himself in a tough spot last week when House Speaker John Boehner brought to the floor a bill aiming to repeal a 2.3 percent excise tax on medical devices.
As a result, Tierney and his fellow Massachusetts Democrats had to choose between dismantling a key funding mechanism in President Barack Obama’s health care reform legislation and upholding a tax on an industry that is vital to the state economy, and especially to the tech-savvy North Shore.
The tax would apply to manufacturers or importers of medical devices such as pacemakers, X-ray machines and defibrillators. It is expected to raise $29 billion over the next 10 years to help subsidize health insurance for low-income families under the Affordable Care Act.
Opponents say the tax will cause companies on the North Shore to cut jobs, enact wage and hiring freezes, and cut back on research and development.
To make up for the $29 billion in lost revenue, Republicans proposed to recoup some of the subsidies to be given to low- and middle-income individuals to help them buy insurance. If their incomes should increase, they would be required to pay back any overpayment they received.
The Joint Committee on Taxation said the GOP plan would result in 350,000 fewer people being insured under Obama’s health reform. That was Tierney’s main motivation for voting down the repeal effort, he said in an interview Friday.
“If I hadn’t voted the way I voted, 350,000 people would have lost insurance,” he said. “Every time the Republicans have the chance, they try and undermine the health care bill, but they can’t do it that way.
“You’ve got to find a way to fill the ($29 billion) hole, and I don’t think you can fill that hole by knocking 350,000 off of health insurance.”