WASHINGTON -- The GOP-controlled House of Representatives voted to repeal a key cost-control provision of the health care law Thursday.
The House passed the largely symbolic measure by a vote of 223 to 181, repealing the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a 15-member panel that is supposed to check Medicare costs if they rise too quickly.
The measure is primarily an election-year vehicle because it is unlikely to even be brought up in the Senate, and President Barack Obama has promised to veto it if is passed.
The measure also included an attempt to reform the medical malpractice system, a provision that was extremely unpopular with Democratic lawmakers, and likely led many who did not like the IPAB to oppose the overall measure.
“Today’s vote scraps the president’s unelected health care rationing board which would hurt seniors by restricting their treatment options and denying access to care," sasid House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in a statement. "The bill also keeps our pledge to curb junk lawsuits and defensive medicine that drive up health care costs."
Republicans in the 2010 election used the health care law as a powerful motivating tool, taking back control of the House amid charges that IPAB would cause rationing of health care. This week, the party has mounted a concerted push against the law, coinciding with its second anniversary and expected deliberations before the Supreme Court next week.
The stated purpose of the payments board is to make recommendations to control costs in Medicare if they rise faster than predicted. Congress could either accept or block the recommendations, and find other ways to control costs.
Democrats said the vote was purely a political distraction, and defended the overall health reform law as a success.
"We’ve heard it all before, but here are the facts: because of the Affordable Care Act, 2.5 million more young adults now have health care coverage; 5.1 million seniors have saved on average an extra $635 on their prescription drugs; 360,000 small employers have used health care reform’s tax credits to insure 2 million additional workers; and since passage of the historical health care reform law, nearly 600,000 new jobs have been created in the health care industry alone," Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) said in a statement.
"Instead of wasting time creating false narratives about the law to scare America’s seniors, I urge House Republicans to start working with Democratic members to strengthen the historic Affordable Care Act and get to work on Congress’ job one: putting Americans back to work," he added.
Indeed, the National Republican Congressional Committee send out blast emails targeting dozens of Democrats soon after the vote.
IPAB alleged that each specific lawmaker "thinks that 15 unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats in Washington should be able to stand in between millions of seniors on Medicare and their doctors," said NRCC Communications Director Paul Lindsay.
Michael McAuliff covers politics and Congress for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.