Drama around healthcare law 'sucking all the life' from IPAB repeal

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Mounting pressure on Republican lawmakers to pass their Affordable Care Act replacement may sweep other healthcare-related legislation under the rug, some observers say.

Bills that have been left in limbo while lawmakers work on tweaking and drumming up support for their healthcare reform proposal include user fee legislation for drug and medical device makers, as well as talks to eliminate the Public Health and Prevention Fund, Bloomberg BNA reported on Monday.

A former House staffer told Bloomberg that the focus on the healthcare overhaul is “really sucking all the life out of other initiatives, including appropriations.”

Also among the issues left out of the spotlight amid the ACA overhaul saga is an upcoming deadline to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which was created under the Affordable Care Act to control Medicare costs. The board, which currently has no members, would have the ability to cut Medicare spending without Congressional approval.

While lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, as well as healthcare groups, have backed repealing the board, some fear that legislators will miss the Aug. 15 deadline to drop it. A repeal would require a simple majority vote ahead of Congress' August recess, which begins in five weeks.

“This is a one-time no-filibuster opportunity to repeal this,” Mary Grealy, president of the Healthcare Leadership Council, told Bloomberg.

IPAB previously expected to be spurred into action in 2017 by a rise in Medicare spending, but a federal spending report that was slated to trigger the board has yet to be released. Grealy noted that while some lawmakers think Medicare won't take any cuts from the board due to its lack of members, the task of implementing spending cuts would fall to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, M.D., in the event that the board doesn't convene.

“A lot of people don't know the Secretary would have the authority to make those cuts,” Grealy said. “Really, he'd be required to make those cuts under law.”