Med Device companies are concerned that the 2.3% tax will stunt research and result in workforce reductions |

Med Device companies are concerned that the 2.3% tax will stunt research and result in workforce reductions

Mass. reaction: Insurers feel better while device makers ill (Boston Herald)

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts CEO Andrew Dreyfus hardly expected conservative Chief Justice John Roberts to be in his corner on health-care policy.

“I was surprised,” he said. “I knew the ruling would be close. But I didn’t expect (Roberts) would be the deciding vote and write the opinion.”

Reaction from local industry stakeholders to the Supreme Court’s affirmative ruling on Obamacare varied yesterday — in part because Massachusetts’ unique status as a universal health-care state shields us from much of the outcome.

One sticking point that the Bay State cannot escape, however, is a tax on medical device makers that is estimated to raise $29 billion in 10 years. Tom Sommer, president of the Massachusetts Medical Device Industry Council, vowed to keep up the fight and lobby for legislation that would overturn the tax.

“We continue to be concerned with the impact the 2.3 percent medical device tax will have on patient and caregiver access to new medical technologies,” Sommer said. “We believe that the tax will result in workforce reduction and decreased (research) activities at our companies.”

Though some experts have said increased coverage could lead to increased sales of medical devices, industry leaders have continued to decry the tax as a serious detriment to their research and development capabilities.

Natick-based Boston Scientific released a statement saying it “supports reform efforts that would lead to universal coverage for all Americans through a mix of private insurance and public programs that build on the strength of the existing system.”

Yet the company has previously referred to the tax as “onerous” and called for a repeal, with CEO Hank Kucheman declaring earlier this month: “This innovation-killing tax will have a significant negative effect on our ability to invest in new therapies for the patients we serve.”

Jon Hurst, who represents small business owners as president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, said the law is largely “a good thing.” He called on legislators to move to raise the number of employees that triggers a coverage requirement for businesses from the state threshold of 11 to 50, as the federal law holds.

Added Dreyfus: “One of the lessons we’ve learned in Massachusetts is expanding coverage is not enough. Having insurance needs to be affordable. That’s a goal we have not yet achieved.”

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