Dems targeted over support for healthcare law's 'rationing board'

The conservative seniors' lobby 60 Plus launched a $3.5 million ad campaign on Monday targeting five vulnerable Senate Democrats over their support for the healthcare reform law's cost-control board.

The TV and Internet ads call on viewers to contact the senators and urge them to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which the House is scheduled to vote on next week. The ads target Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).

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"President Obama's health care law cuts $500 billion from Medicare to pay for a new government program," the ad says. "And it creates a board of 15 unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats. It's like a Medicare IRS with the power to cut Medicare even more."

Republicans have taken to calling the IPAB a "rationing board," but the law prohibits the board from reducing seniors' benefits or increasing their co-pays. Rather, it recommends cuts to provider payments if federal health spending grows at a faster than targeted rate, unless Congress comes up with its own savings.

No Senate Democrats have so far signed on to legislation repealing the IPAB, which is estimated to cost about $3.1 billion over 10 years. Twenty Democrats have signed on to the House bill — including high-ranking members Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) — but that bipartisan support is likely to evaporate after House Republicans opted to pay for their bill by tying it to medical malpractice legislation. 

Only Tester's race is considered a toss-up at this point, according to The Hill's campaign evaluations. Nelson, McCaskill and Brown are considered to be in seats that "lean Democratic," while Stabenow is in better shape, with her seat "likely Democratic."