"The main Republican attack on Medicare and the Affordable Care Act is that we cannot afford them," he said. "House Republicans are proposing changes that would destroy Medicare because they say taking care of our seniors just costs too much. And yet today, they will vote for a bill that eliminates one of Medicare's cost-saving innovations, and saddles Medicare with over $3 billion in unnecessary costs."
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) added that the IPAB is a "backstop mechanism" to guarantee the 2010 healthcare law's cost-containment provisions, but said the latest estimates from the Congressional Budget Office show the entity is not likely to be needed for several years.
Despite these complaints, several Democrats said they support repealing IPAB, reflecting the support of many Dems for eliminating a board that could recommend Medicare cuts without any congressional input. But as expected, even these members said they cannot support the bill, since it also contains medical tort reform that Democrats oppose.
"I'm very disappointed that the Republican leadership has robbed many Democrats of their ability to vote cleanly on IPAB repeal, and have instead, yet again, politicized this body," Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) said. "When will you learn?"
Republicans nonetheless called on all members to support the bill, and said the tort reform language, which would limit punitive damages to $250,000, among other things, is particularly needed to reduce medical costs.
"The healthcare law failed to provide any meaningful reform to the broken and costly medical liability system, which is currently one of the largest cost drivers of our healthcare system," Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said. "The current system is responsible for as much as $200 billion a year in unnecessary spending on defensive medicine."
"Starting in 2015, the IPAB can make decisions about what private plans will cover," Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.) added. "Yes, 15 people will be deciding what private companies will be covering. That's what's fundamentally wrong with the healthcare reform law, and we should repeal the whole thing."
Debate on the bill started at 3 p.m., and was scheduled to hear from House Energy and Commerce Committee members until a little after 5 p.m. After that, four hours of debate are reserved, two of which will be led by House Judiciary and Ways and Means committees.