Brown Stumps in Lebanon
U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown speaks to reporters at Keene Medical Products in Lebanon, N.H., on April 30, 2014.
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U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown shows a photo of himself competing in the Rad Race while at Keene Medical Products in Lebanon, N.H., on April 30, 2014. Co-owner of the store Keith Filiault and comptroller Richard Tobim are on the right.
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Lebanon — Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Scott Brown attacked the medical device tax that helps pay for President Obama’s Affordable Care Act while campaigning in Lebanon on Wednesday, calling for the repeal as a major plank of his campaign platform.
Criticism of Obamacare, as the law is known, has been a centerpiece of Republican campaigns across the country this year, and Brown made clear that his would be no different.
“There are 18 new taxes as part of Obamacare, one is the medical device tax, which is a tremendous burden on the medical device community,” Brown said.
Brown visited Keene Medical Products store on Route 120 with his wife, Gail Huff, on Wednesday afternoon, and as the couple walked down the steps to the basement during a tour, Brown raised the issue of the device tax with Keith Filiault, the company’s co-owner and CFO.
“You’re biggest problem is probably the medical device tax,” Brown said.
Filiault said the medical device tax was not, in fact, the company’s biggest concern. Instead, Keene Medical, which has a dozen locations in the Twin States, is being squeezed by a competitive bidding process and decreased Medicare reimbursements, which is a result of the Affordable Care Act, he said.
“Our actual orders are up, but our reimbursements are flat,” Filiault said. “We’re doing more business for less revenue.”
For oxygen services, for example, Medicare has lowered its reimbursement to about $105 compared to other insurers that still reimburse about $176.
Brown, wearing denim jeans and a navy blue suit coat, toured Keene Medical Products for about 20 minutes before taking questions from the assembled media. He criticized U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., for her support of Obama and a “rubber stamp mentality.” However, Shaheen, like Brown, has opposed the medical device tax, and her campaign released the following statement Wednesday in response to Brown’s Lebanon visit.
“Scott Brown wants to repeal Obamacare but has no plan to replace it. If he had his way, 58,000 Granite Staters eligible for affordable health insurance through the bipartisan Medicaid expansion compromise would lose their coverage, and we would go back to the days when insurance companies could drop people when they got sick, charge women more money for care than men, or deny people with pre-existing conditions. New Hampshire doesn’t want to go back to a broken system. Jeanne Shaheen is working to improve the law by expanding the small business tax credit and increasing competition with new insurers on the marketplace next year.”
Brown contends the Affordable Care Act is “disastrous” and said he would repeal it and replace it with a plan that “works for us,” doesn’t have federal mandates, doesn’t have tax increases and includes competition.
This year, New Hampshire’s health insurance exchange only has one participating insurer on the marketplace, and there are hospitals throughout the state who are excluded, causing patients to travel long distances and forcing them to switch doctors, Brown said.
He added that if Obamacare were repealed, then there would need to be a safety net for people during the transition period so they don’t lose their insurance entirely.
While Brown wants to put the focus on Shaheen’s support for Obamacare, on Wednesday he found himself under attack from primary opponent Jim Rubens who criticized Brown’s support as a Massachusetts state senator for the Bay State’s 2006 health care reform, which is often cited as a forerunner of Obamacare.
In an interview after the tour, Brown said his vote to pass Romneycare was not the same as approving of Obamacare because there is a “huge” difference between the two. Health care reform in Massachusetts was bipartisan, it didn’t cut Medicare, it had competition, Brown said, and it didn’t raise taxes, while Obamacare includes 18 new taxes. (Romneycare also had an insurance mandate and other features that were incorporated into the Affordable Care Act.)
In a phone interview after Brown’s appearance, Rubens, a former state senator from Hanover, criticized Brown for supporting the Massachusetts reform but opposing Obamacare because “they are the same thing.”
“I find it’s inexplicable how the same candidate could support Romneycare but oppose Obamacare and then run on only that issue,” said Rubens. “The Massachusetts voter has a high tolerance for high taxes. That’s not the case in New Hampshire.”
Back in Lebanon, Brown gave a tortured answer when asked if he supports the increase of the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
“I have not read that particular bill, I didn’t follow the arguments on it,” Brown said. “But I have been supportive in the past, but we need to make sure everyone is at the table and it’s something that we can have a conversation about a periodic adjustment.”
When asked to clarify if he supports current calls to raise the minimum wage, Brown said, “I just made my position be very clear on that issue.”
Sarah Brubeck can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3223.