WASHINGTON (AP) -- House and Senate Republican leaders told President Barack Obama Thursday that they will refuse to nominate candidates to serve on an advisory board that is to play a role in holding down Medicare costs under the new health care act.
House Speaker John Boehner, who joined Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell in boycotting the Independent Payment Advisory Board, also said that the House next week will vote again to repeal the health care act. According to a Democratic count, the House has tried some 36 times to repeal or defund all or part of Obama's landmark health care overhaul since it became law in 2010.
The 15-member advisory board, known as IPAB, would have the power to force payment cuts on insurers, drug companies and other service providers if Medicare costs rise beyond certain levels.
The health care law explicitly forbids the board from rationing care, shifting costs to seniors or cutting their benefits, but Republicans have insisted that it will be a vehicle to deny care to seniors. Former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin referred to "death panels" that would allow the government to withhold life-saving care from the elderly while campaigning in 2008.
While Boehner and McConnell did not go that far, they said in their letter to Obama that reduced payments "will force providers to stop seeing Medicare patients" and "this will lead to access problems, waiting lists and denied care for seniors."
Boehner, at a news conference Thursday, said this "is a board with 15 unelected, unaccountable individuals who have the authority to deny seniors access to care. The American people don't want the federal government making decisions that doctors and patients should be making."
The members of the board, to consist of people nominated by both parties, would be subject to Senate confirmation. Economists have predicted that the board's services might not be needed in the near future because Medicare cost increases appear to be manageable.
White House spokesman Jay Carney, responding to reporter questions about the IPAB boycott, saidliz that "the fact that Republicans have continued to push for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act I believe demonstrates how out of touch they are with the American people, who are tired of efforts by Republicans to refight the political battles of the past."
Asked why the House was voting a 37th time to repeal all or part of what Republicans call "Obamacare," even though GOP leaders know the Democratic-controlled Senate will again ignore the vote, Boehner said there were about 70 new members of the House this year. "Frankly they have been asking for an opportunity to vote on it, and we are going to give it to them."
He said he supports total repeal of the law rather than efforts to amend it as it goes into effect over the next year. "I don't believe there is a way to fix this and make it acceptable to the American people."
Republicans say there have been only two previous votes to eliminate the health care law in its entirety. They say there have been more than 30 votes to partially repeal or defund the law, and several have been signed into law, including one eliminating an unpopular tax-filing requirement that would have affected millions of businesses.
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