The House voted Tuesday to abolish a cost-cutting board under ObamaCare that has drawn criticism from members of both parties.
Lawmakers voted 244-154 to abolish what is known as the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). The board is tasked with coming up with Medicare cuts if spending rises above a certain threshold, but has been criticized as outsourcing the work of Congress to unelected bureaucrats.
Repeal of the board has split Democrats, 20 of whom cosponsored the repeal bill. Eleven voted with Republicans on Tuesday to kill it.
Other Democrats say they oppose the board but object to the Republican offset in the repeal bill, which cuts $8.25 billion from a preventive health fund in ObamaCare.
Some Democrats have called the vote somewhat pointless, given that the board does not exist yet. Its members require Senate confirmation, which would set off a fight. The slowdown in healthcare spending growth has also meant that the thresholds have not yet been met that would trigger cuts from the board.
During debate of the repeal measure, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) warned that IPAB would propose cutting Medicare payments with Congress only able to stop it by a difficult three-fifths supermajority vote.
“All this thing has done, it is designed to basically go around Congress, go around the laws, and have unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats ration care for our seniors,” Ryan said.
Democrats faulted the GOP for not finding a more agreeable pay-for, even as other bills meant to undermine the healthcare law — like the medical device tax repeal last week — would add to the deficit.
“Here we are, at long last, the Republicans come forth with a pay-for, and they are paying for it by taking away something that really, really matters,” said Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee.
Even some Democrats who have concerns about IPAB and signed onto the bill as co-sponsors ultimately decided to vote against it due to the controversial offset.
“My Republican colleagues continue to prove that they would rather have an anti-ACA talking point rather than a real solution,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.).
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, said last week that he supports repealing the board but objects to the offset.
“I don’t disagree with my colleagues, maybe I’m not speaking for other Democrats on this in terms of IPAB,” Pallone said. “I don’t like IPAB because I don’t like any independent commissions.”
But he called the ObamaCare prevention fund being cut “tremendously important,” saying it has has financed programs like reducing tobacco use and promoting vaccinations.
The White House has threatened to veto the bill if it reaches the president’s desk. “The bill 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 White House said in a statement last week.