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House Votes to Drop Medicare Board From Health-Care Law

The House voted to remove a Medicare advisory board from the 2010 health-care overhaul law days before the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on the law’s constitutionality.

The Independent Payment Advisory Board, composed of 15 presidentially appointed members who haven’t been selected, is intended to recommend cuts in Medicare payments to doctors, hospitals and other health-care providers.

The measure, H.R. 5, passed today on a 223-181 vote, also would cap awards in medical-malpractice claims for pain and suffering at $250,000 in most states and limit contingency fees to lawyers. The legislation would establish guidelines for punitive award limits and set a deadline for filing the lawsuits.

The Republican-led House has previously passed similar medical liability provisions, though the proposals didn’t advance in the Senate, now controlled by Democrats.

The White House threatened a veto on March 20, calling the advisory board “an important safeguard” to rein in Medicare cost growth. The message from the U.S. Office of Management and Budget said the malpractice award caps would create “inappropriate and harmful restrictions” without reducing preventable injuries or improving the quality of care.

Recommending Cuts

Starting in 2015, the payment advisory board would have the ability to recommend cuts of as much as 0.5 percent of Medicare spending, increasing to 1.5 percent for 2018 and beyond. The board’s recommendations would automatically take effect unless Congress passed a different plan to lower spending that matched the amount recommended by the board.

The medical liability provisions would reduce the budget deficit by $48.6 billion over 10 years, while repealing the Medicare advisory board would increase the deficit by $3.1 billion, according to a March 19 Congressional Budget Office estimate.

Medical associations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are among supporters of the bill. Opponents include trial lawyers’ associations, consumer advocacy groups and state legislatures.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments March 26-28 on challenges to the health-care law’s constitutionality.

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