Medicare Savings Panel Voted Down
The House voted Tuesday to kill a federal panel that is supposed to find ways to curb Medicare spending, as Republicans ignored a veto threat and leveled their latest blow at President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.
Members of the Independent Payment Advisory Board have never been appointed, and the panel has never recommended savings from Medicare, the $600-billion-a-year health care program for the elderly.
Republicans have long targeted the board anyway, saying it would ration care and has too much power. When the health care law began working its way through Congress in 2009, defeated GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin said the law would create "death panels" that could decide the care seniors would receive.
Democrats argue that the statute specifically forbids the board from rationing care, increasing recipients' premiums or reducing their coverage. That means its recommendations would fall largely on providers, such as doctors and nursing homes.
The White House has threatened to veto the bill, saying repeal would eliminate a way to "help reduce the rate of Medicare growth responsibly."
Tuesday's vote was a mostly party-line 244-154. The Senate has yet to consider similar legislation.
Most Democrats consider the Republican repeal effort an attempt to weaken the health care law.
Some Democrats agree that the board is too powerful, since its recommended savings automatically take effect unless Congress votes to change or block them.
But much Democratic support for repealing the board evaporated when Republicans decided to pay the $7 billion, 10-year cost of eliminating it by cutting $8 billion from the health care law's prevention and public health fund, which the GOP says wastes money. Democrats call the prevention program a valuable part of that law.
The board can only propose savings when the rate of Medicare spending growth hits specified levels that haven't been reached — and are not expected to be reached — for years.
Last week, the House voted to repeal another piece of the health care law taxing many medical devices.