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Democrats Willing to Tinker With Health Care Law

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Republican Policy Committee Chairman Tom Price said he was surprised by the Democratic support to scrap the Independent Payment Advisory Board.

House Republicans’ latest attack on the Affordable Care Act isn’t expected to go far, but it will show disagreements within the Democratic Caucus as the Supreme Court begins hearing oral arguments on the Obama administration’s landmark law later this month.

Democrats charge that the division on President Barack Obama’s hallmark legislative accomplishment is old news and dates back to the rigorous debate during the measure’s drafting in 2010. Republicans insist their latest proposal, to scrap a 15-member panel tasked with finding Medicare savings, helps build their case that the entire law should be overturned.

“I was really surprised, frankly, this morning with the amount of support we had for [the] repeal from the other side of the aisle for folks who actually voted for the bill in the first place,” Republican Policy Committee Chairman Tom Price (Ga.) said, noting the Energy and Commerce Committee’s voice-vote approval Tuesday to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), has 20 Democratic co-sponsors and will be marked up Thursday in the Ways and Means Committee. It would overturn a provision that Republicans charge could lead to higher Medicare rates and rationing and that some Democrats, including Reps. Frank Pallone (N.J.) and Allyson Schwartz (Pa.), say undermines Congressional authority.

Democratic sources said Tuesday that White House aides were reaching out to Members to keep them from peeling off when the measure comes to a vote on the floor. Democratic House leaders rigorously whipped colleagues against voting for the GOP’s full health care repeal last year, but they have not done the same for the more targeted repeal measures that have come forward.

Schwartz, a co-sponsor of Roe’s bill, sent a letter to colleagues last year calling on them to support the repeal of IPAB, calling it a “flawed policy” that won’t contain costs.

“Abdicating this responsibility, whether to insurance companies or an unelected commission, would undermine our ability to represent the needs of the seniors and disabled in our communities,” Schwartz said in the letter sent last April.

Schwartz carries a leadership role at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and is a frequent defender of party ideals on the cable news circuit. Pallone serves as the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health. Neither Member, however, said their support of an IPAB repeal is harmful to the party.

“It’s my confidence in the provisions in improving care and reducing costs that enables [me] to feel so comfortable in repealing the IPAB,” Schwartz said in an interview.

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