March 22, 2012 / 7:20 PM / 8 years ago

U.S. House votes to abolish Medicare cost panel

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A new Medicare cost-control panel that Republicans said would lead to rationing care for the elderly was voted down by the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday.

The Republican-led House voted 223-181 to abolish the Independent Payment Advisory Board, created by President Barack Obama’s healthcare law as a way to rein in soaring costs of the Medicare program for the elderly.

The measure, which is unlikely to be taken up by the Democratic-controlled Senate, was passed one day before the two-year anniversary of the healthcare law, which polling data shows is unpopular with the public.

The move is the latest in a series of attempts by House Republicans to repeal parts of the healthcare law ahead of the November 6 election in which all 435 House seats are up for grabs.

The Medicare board has yet to be appointed and its first set of recommendations is not due until 2014. But Republicans have used it as a example of what they see as government overreach in their push to derail Obama’s signature healthcare law.

“The president’s law failed to address the skyrocketing costs of Medicare and instead turned decision-making power over to the Independent Payment Advisory Board to determine when and whether doctors are paid to provide treatments for seniors,” said Republican Representative Tom Price.

Republicans have been stepping up efforts to highlight unpopular provisions in Obama’s healthcare law as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments next week about the law’s constitutional validity.

Seven Democrats joined the Republican majority to vote for abolishing the panel.

Many other Democrats do not like the board, but a provision in the legislation limiting medical malpractice lawsuits kept a number of them from voting with the Republicans, an aide said.

The panel’s recommendations to reduce Medicare spending would go into effect unless Congress enacts an alternative cost-saving plan.

Reporting By Donna Smith; Editing by Xavier Briand

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