The House easily passed a repeal of Obamacare's Independent Payment Advisory Board, with a handful of Democrats voting with Republicans against a part of the law aimed at checking the growth of Medicare spending.
The Independent Payment Advisory Board has never been used. It consists of 15 members and was included in the law to control the rate of Medicare growth and to help the program come up with savings. The law said the board would make savings recommendations if Medicare spending was projected to exceed a certain target rate, but so far, spending hasn't grown fast enough to trigger the IPAB.
The 244-154 vote occurred days before an expected Supreme Court ruling on the legality of Obamacare subsidies. Coupled with a vote to repeal the law's medical-device tax last week, the bipartisan IPAB repeal hammers home the message that the Affordable Care Act is broken.
"It's good that people finally know it's there; if nothing else, this will help people know what was another onerous element of Obamacare," said Republican Rep. Trent Franks in an interview.
The Obama administration last week threatened a veto of the legislation, which has 20 Democratic cosponsors. It remains unclear whether Senate Republicans would be able to muster 60 votes to overcome a Democratic filibuster.
"H.R. 1190 would repeal and dismantle the IPAB even before it has a chance to work. The bill would eliminate an important safeguard that, under current law, will help reduce the rate of Medicare cost growth responsibly while protecting Medicare beneficiaries and the traditional program," the Office of Management and Budget wrote in a statement.
But the veto threat didn't deter Republicans, as passing the legislation wasn't necessarily the point of bringing it to the floor.
"At least we'll put on record many Democrats who say, 'Hey, it's a bad idea,' and that speaks of the law itself being problematic," Republican Rep. John Fleming said in an interview. "We're just going to keep sending pieces of repeal and full repeals, small repeals, whatever, and really get as many people on record where they stand on this."
Although only 11 Democrats ended up voting for the repeal, others might have done so if the bill wasn't offset by cuts to Obamacare's Prevention and Public Health Fund.
"I'm a no vote on this. I don't like where they come up with the pay-fors," Democratic Rep. Gene Green said in an interview. "They take it out of a program that's part of the Affordable Care Act that's been successful. And frankly, I didn't support the IPAB originally."
The IPAB has been controversial since its inception, with the some Affordable Care Act critics labeling it a "death panel." The moniker was used as evidence of Republican misinformation about the law, but the moniker has stuck among some conservatives and a sizable portion of the public continues to believe that it is an accurate characterization.
Caitlin Owens is a health care reporter at National Journal. Her work has previously appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.