On Wednesday, the House is scheduled to consider legislation (HR 5) that would repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board created by the federal health reform law, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.
The House Rules Committee approved the measure Tuesday, and a final floor vote is expected Wednesday or Thursday.
Amendments Would Impose Caps on Medical Malpractice Awards
The Rules Committee also approved six amendments to the bill, which combines legislation to impose caps on medical malpractice awards with the IPAB repeal language (Pecquet/Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 3/20).
According to Politico, the caps on medical liability were included to offset the cost of repealing IPAB. Republican lawmakers, who have unanimously supported both pieces of legislation, have said that the caps could save tens of billions of dollars.
However, some GOP members raised concerns over imposing new federal malpractice laws that would interfere with current state laws, and in some cases, nullify them (Sherman/Palmer, Politico, 3/20).
Meanwhile, Democrats likely will reject the entire bill because they oppose caps on medical liability. According to CQ Today, 20 House Democrats initially co-sponsored the original IPAB repeal legislation (HB 452), but several of them are likely to withdraw their support (Attias, CQ Today, 3/20).
Prospects for Passage
Still, HR 5 is expected to garner enough support in the House for passage, according to the AP/San Francisco Chronicle.
However, it is expected to stall in the Senate where the Democratic majority has expressed support for IPAB (Alonso-Zaldivar, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 3/20).
White House Pledges To Veto Repeal Bill
The White House on Tuesday issued a statement of administration policy confirming that President Obama would veto IPAB repeal legislation if it reaches his desk, MarketWatch reports.
Repealing IPAB "would eliminate an important safeguard that, under current law, will help reduce the rate of Medicare cost growth responsibly while protecting Medicare beneficiaries and the traditional program," the statement noted (Robb, MarketWatch, 3/20).
Report: Obama Could Appoint IPAB Members Without Congressional Support
In related news, Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) on Tuesday issued a report warning that President Obama could appoint a majority of IPAB's 15 members without Congressional consent if the Senate does not confirm them, Modern Healthcare reports.
IPAB's opponents previously have said that Congress could block the confirmation if the repeal measure fails, which would effectively block the board from being formed.
However, the report warns that the health reform law would facilitate the panel to operate on schedule in 2015 regardless of the members' confirmations. "There are virtually no checks on the panel, since its members are unelected, and its recommendations cannot be challenged in court," the report states (Daly, Modern Healthcare, 3/20).