Second House panel clears bill to repeal Medicare board

A second House committee agreed by voice vote Thursday to repeal a key cost-cutting board in President Obama’s healthcare law.

The Ways and Means Committee voted to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a 15-member panel tasked with cutting Medicare payments. The Energy and Commerce Committee passed the same repeal bill earlier this week.

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Republicans say the IPAB invests too much power in unelected experts and could lead to rationing. Democrats note that the panel is expressly prohibited from cutting Medicare benefits or increasing costs for seniors. It can only cut payments to doctors and some other providers. Hospitals are exempt from the board's cuts until 2018.

Leadership is hoping to have the IPAB repeal bill on the floor around the same time the Supreme Court begins hearing oral arguments over the healthcare law. Those proceedings are set to begin March 26.

The Obama administration has aggressively defended the IPAB, saying it’s one of the most important cost-control features in the healthcare law and contrasting it with Republican-led proposals to at least partially privatize the program.


— This post was updated at 4:19 p.m.