Healthcare

Week ahead: House poised to repeal ObamaCare tax

The House is scheduled to vote on bills repealing parts of ObamaCare, even as lawmakers keep a tense watch for the Supreme Court’s decision on the law’s subsidies.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) announced in his memo for June that the chamber will turn its attention to two ObamaCare elements that some members of both parties agree should be dropped. 

One bill, with 41 Democratic co-sponsors, would repeal the law’s 2.3 percent tax on medical device manufacturers, a provision that has drawn the ire of members who say it impedes innovation.

{mosads}Another measure, with 20 Democratic co-sponsors, repeals the healthcare law’s Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a panel tasked with recommending Medicare cuts if spending rises above a certain target.

Some Republicans have labeled it a “death panel,” and the controversial board has not yet been established. Nominees require Senate confirmation, a likely tough fight.

Both repeal bills passed the House Ways and Means Committee at the beginning of June. The device tax repeal passed on a mostly party-line vote, with Democrats objecting that the $26 billion cost of repealing the tax was not paid for.

The IPAB repeal, though, got seven Democratic votes, in addition to Republican votes.

The House agenda also includes some bipartisan tweaks to the Medicare Advantage program. That program, where the government contracts with private insurers to provide Medicare coverage, has gained support from lawmakers in both parties over the years.

The Securing Care for Seniors Act would require the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to consider changing how it calculates the risk score used to set payment levels for the insurance companies.

Another bill, from Reps. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), would set up a test program for Medicare Advantage plans to be able to lower the costs for certain medications. The goal is to encourage patients to use the medications, which is intended to improve their health and lower costs in the long run.

The Supreme Court will also be announcing more decisions on Monday, with the watch on for King v. Burwell, a ruling that could invalidate ObamaCare subsidies for 6.4 million people.

The battle lines have hardened in Congress over how to respond to a decision striking down the subsidies. The Obama administration indicated it is likely to veto the leading GOP plans, while top Republicans rejected President Obama’s proposal to just pass a one-sentence bill restoring the subsidies.

The Senate Health Committee will also hold a hearing Tuesday on electronic health records.

 

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