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IPAB Repeal Bill, with Malpractice Rider, Heads to Full House

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media, March 21, 2012

The repeal of the Independent Payment Advisory Board will get a full House hearing on Wednesday after the House Committee on Rules voted late Tuesday afternoon to pass HR 5 (the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act of 2011).

By a 7-4 vote, the committee agreed to bring HR 5 and six amendments to the House floor for six hours of general debate. A vote could come as early as Wednesday.

Created as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the 15-member IPAB board is empowered to analyze the drivers of Medicare cost growth and then to recommend to Congress policies to control those costs, if spending exceeds a targeted growth rate. IPAB recommendations are to be put in place unless Congress votes to block them and comes up with equivalent cost-cutting measures.

HR 5 links the IPAB repeal to medical malpractice caps. The two were originally in separate bills,  but last week House Republicans decided to combine them into a single bill. Although the IPAB repeal has enjoyed bipartisan support as it has moved through the House committee system, the decision to attach the IPAB repeal to med-mal has placed Democrats, who typically oppose tort reform, in the awkward position of having to choose between two large stakeholder groups—the American Medical Association, which wants IPAB repealed or the American Bar Association, which opposes medical malpractice caps.

Democrats held out some hope that the Rules Committee would agree to separate IPAB and med-mal reform. Instead, the committee kept the bill intact and approved the six amendments for consideration by the full House.

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