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House Votes to Block IPAB, Approve Malpractice Caps

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media, March 22, 2012

In a vote primarily along party lines, the House of Representatives voted Thursday to repeal the portion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that would have created the Independent Payment Advisory Board.

By a 223-181 vote the House approved HR 5 (the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act of 2011) with four amendments:

  1. to eliminate the findings and purpose of the bill,
  2. to extend liability coverage to on-call and emergency room physicians under the Public Health Service Act,
  3. to amend the McCarran-Ferguson Act to apply antitrust laws to the business of health insurance, and
  4. to grant limited civil liability protection to health professionals that volunteer at federally declared disaster sites

Republicans (and some Democrats) have been vocal opponents of the independent board, which would be empowered by the ACA to analyze the drivers of Medicare cost growth and recommend to Congress policies to control those costs, if spending exceeds a targeted growth rate. The common complaints were that the unelected board usurped the powers of Congress to govern and that the board would have the power to ration healthcare.

The medical malpractice portion of HR 5 limits punitive and non-economic damages (so-called pain and suffering) to $250,000 and limits contingency fees to a set percent of the damage recovery.

At best the vote is symbolic. It is unlikely that the Democratic-controlled Senate will even consider a repeal of IPAB or malpractice tort reform for that matter.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced in February the Healthcare Bureaucrats Elimination Act (S 2118) to repeal IPAB. The bill has 22 Republican co-sponsors and no Democratic co-sponsors.


Margaret Dick Tocknell is a reporter/editor with HealthLeaders Media.
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