Healthcare Business News

New session of Congress brings more anti-reform legislation

By Jessica Zigmond
Posted: January 23, 2013 - 6:45 pm ET

New year, same resolution.

Just weeks into the 113th Congress, GOP lawmakers are making attempts to dismantle the 2010 healthcare law, and one of those efforts has bipartisan support.

That's the legislation introduced today by Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's contentious—and unpopular—Independent Payment Advisory Board. Roe, a physician, introduced his bill in the last Congress and more than 230 co-sponsors signed onto it, including 20 Democrats (it later passed as part of other legislation). The bill Roe introduced today currently has 83 original co-sponsors from last year's legislation, and a spokeswoman for Roe said in an e-mail that his office expects the bill to gain support. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.), its lead Democrat co-sponsor, said in a statement that history has shown “blunt instruments aimed at simply reducing costs are not the best solution,” and said IPAB has the potential to stifle both innovation and collaboration among providers.

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The IPAB would be responsible for suggesting ways to reduce the per capita growth rate in Medicare spending if it grows at a rate of gross domestic product per capita plus 1%. Recommendations from the board would become law unless Congress acts to achieve the same level of savings through other means.

As it has before, the American Medical Association praised repealing the 15-member, still-unnamed panel.

“Patients and physicians are still struggling with the frequent threat of drastic cuts from the broken SGR Medicare physician payment formula,” Dr. Jeremy Lazarus, president of the American Medical Association, said in a statement. “IPAB would be another arbitrary system that relies solely on payment cuts.”

Meanwhile, repeal attempts aren't limited to the House. In the upper chamber, Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)—ranking members of the Senate Finance and HELP Committees, respectively—introduced legislation this week to repeal the 2010 law's individual mandate, a bill that gained support from 30 senators in the last Congress. And Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) introduced the Small Business Health Relief Act, which would repeal a host of the law's insurance-related provisions, including restrictions on HSAs and flexible savings accounts and fines on employers with more than 50 employees who do not offer insurance that meets the law's requirements.

Portman's bill would also repeal annual fees imposed on insurance companies. Nearly two years ago, the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that repealing the health insurance industry fee could lower premium prices on plans between 2% and 2.5%, and decrease the average family premium to $400 from $350 in 2016.

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