On Thursday, the House voted 223-181 to approve legislation (HR 5) that would repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board created by the federal health reform law, AP/USA Today reports. The bill -- which seven Democrats supported and 10 Republicans opposed -- also would impose caps on medical malpractice awards (AP/USA Today, 3/22).
The bill is unlikely to be heard in the Democrat-controlled Senate, and President Obama has vowed to veto the legislation should it reach his desk. Senate Republicans said they will push for similar legislation, perhaps by attaching amendments to other bills, a move Senate Democrats have said they would block (Pear, New York Times, 3/22).
Several House Democrats criticized the GOP for merging the medical malpractice legislation with the IPAB repeal. Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) said the malpractice provision was "poorly crafted," while Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) said that if the bills were not linked, more Democrats would have supported the legislation (Strong, Roll Call, 3/22).
Meanwhile, the American Medical Association applauded the bill's passage. AMA President-elect Jeremy Lazarus said that IPAB "would have too little accountability and the power to make indiscriminate cuts that adversely affect access to health care for patients" (Lee, Modern Physician, 3/22).
Democrats Accuse GOP of Supporting Medicare Spending Increases
Following the vote, Democrats attempted to "turn the tables" on Republicans, saying that repealing IPAB would make Medicare's fiscal situation worse, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports. According to "Healthwatch," the GOP effort to repeal IPAB puts Republicans in the unlikely position of appearing to support unlimited entitlement spending.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said that repealing IPAB "could lead to faster insolvency of the trust fund," adding that many reforms in the federal health reform law "will prevent the IPAB from necessarily having to act ... but the IPAB is a backstop" (Pecquet, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 3/22).
Republicans Strip Language From Bill
The House on Thursday approved an amendment to remove language from the bill that states the health care industry affects interstate commerce, The Hill's "Floor Action Blog" reports. The amendment came about because of GOP concerns that the language could undermine their argument that the overhaul violates the Constitution's commerce clause.
Supporters of the overhaul have argued that under the commerce clause, Congress is able to mandate that all U.S. residents purchase health insurance coverage. Meanwhile, opponents of the reform law have countered that the commerce clause does not apply, because Congress cannot regulate market inactivity.
Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.) said, "Clearly, the House does not subscribe to the notion that the commerce clause bestows almost unlimited powers on Congress" (Kasperowicz, "Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 3/22).