March 6 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee approved legislation that would repeal implementation of an advisory board created to recommend cuts to Medicare, the U.S. health program for the elderly and disabled.
Under the 2010 health-care overhaul, the Independent Payment Advisory Board could draft reductions to Medicare payments for doctors, hospitals and other providers without congressional approval. The board would have 15 members selected by the president and confirmed by the Senate; none have been named to the panel.
The committee approved the bill, H.R. 452, by voice vote today.
“The president’s health-care law says that cutting $575 billion from Medicare to fund new health entitlements and then allowing a 15-member panel of unelected bureaucrats to decide what health-care goods and services are valuable is the way to reform the program,” Representative Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican and the committee’s chairman, said yesterday in a statement on the opening day of the hearing on the bill.
Starting in 2015, the board would have the power to recommend cuts not exceeding 0.5 percent of Medicare spending, increasing to 1.5 percent for 2018 and beyond. If Congress fails to pass legislation to lower spending that matches the levels recommended by the board, then the board’s recommendations would automatically take effect.
In October, 20 medical associations urged a congressional “supercommittee” considering a deficit reduction package to support repeal of the board in its proposal. They said that the board lacked transparency and accountability and that strict budgetary targets and other limitations would limit seniors’ access to health care.
Obama Administration Opposed
In a letter this morning to the committee leadership, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stated the administration’s “strong opposition” to the bill, saying it would add “billions of dollars to the federal budget deficit” while repealing an ‘important tool’’ to strengthen the Medicare program.
The House on Feb. 1 passed legislation that would repeal a provision in the health-care law setting up a government-sponsored long-term care insurance program. That measure is now in the Senate, where Democrats don’t plan to bring it up for consideration.
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