The House today voted, 223-181, on largely party lines to pass legislation repealing a cost-control board included in President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law.
The legislation also included limits on medical malpractice awards, which some Democrats cited as a reason for opposing the bill despite the desire by some to kill the Independent Payment Advisory Board.
The IPAB, which has not yet been implemented, has become a flashpoint in the debate over the law.
The board would be charged with making annual proposals to cut per-capita Medicare spending, which would then become law unless Congress voted to veto them.
Republican critics charge that the board will lead to “rationing” of health care and that there are far more intelligent means of reducing Medicare costs.
Though Obama has moved several times to defend the board, many Democrats are uncomfortable with it, and it was not included in the initial House-passed version of the health care reform law.
“In this bill, Republicans have recycled their old medical malpractice liability legislation that undermines states’ rights and hurts the rights of injured patients to obtain just compensation,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said.
The timing of the bill’s passage was coordinated by House Republican leaders to highlight their efforts to repeal the entire health care reform law as well as the high-profile Supreme Court arguments on the law next week.
Democratic Reps. Tim Bishop (N.Y.), Barney Frank (Mass.) and Bill Pascrell (N.J.) said they support repealing the IPAB, but couldn’t vote for the Republican bill because of the medical malpractice limits.
Bishop said the malpractice reform provision is “poorly crafted” and that its payout cap on punitive awards — $250,000 — was too low. Bishop called it “political malpractice” for Republicans to have included the provision. Pascrell said that without the medical malpractice provision, a majority of Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee would have supported the bill.
Republicans charged Democrats with looking for any excuse to oppose the measure. “It’s tough being in the minority,” mocked one rank-and-file GOP Member, “you have to chose between what the American people want and protecting trial lawyers.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.