Greedy GOPers Losing Anti-“Death Panel” Dems

It’s not getting the attention it deserves, but House Republicans appear to be in the process of screwing up an opportunity to strike a blow against ObamaCare (and against any significant health care cost containment in all probability) because they are insisting on connecting it to one of their pet rocks, medical malpractice reform, thus enraging the trial lawyers and destroying Democratic support. The Hill’s Julian Pecquet has the story:

The powerful trial lawyers’ lobby has come out in force against a bill to repeal the healthcare reform law’s cost-cutting board because of the way it’s paid for, possibly depriving House Republicans of a unique chance to deal a bipartisan blow to President Obama ahead of the November election.

To pay for their repeal of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), House leaders have proposed coupling it with legislation capping medical malpractice damages when it comes up for a vote next week. Tort reform has long been a Republican priority, but linking the two bills is likely to cause a number of defections among the 20 Democratic co-sponsors of IPAB repeal while diluting the GOP’s message about the unelected board’s lack of accountability.

In case the formal language eludes you, the IPAB is better known as “Obama’s Death Panel”–you know, the Republican-sponsored initiative that is supposed to come up with Medicare cost savings, which in Palin-speak necessarily means killing off old folks and the disabled to pay for contraceptives for sluts and welfare for lazy people.

IPAB is precisely the sort of thing that should (as it has in the past) attract bipartisan support. But thanks to the shameless demagoguery of Palin and many others and the fear of Democrats in competitive districts of being associated with something that sounds like it could cut Medicare benefits, its demise is instead a bit of a donkey-magnet.

But by linking the IPAB-killer to a “tort reform” measure–and not just any old tort reform measure, but a ham-handed approach that arbitrarily caps jury awards–it looks like Republicans will chase off their Democratic cosponsors, many of whom undoubtedly depend on trial bar financial support (particularly important to centrist Dems in parts of the country where unions are few and far between).

If that’s how it goes down, I’m relieved because IPAB is really important to preserve, and bipartisan support for this abomination of a bill might have given it a chance in the Senate. But the scenario is an indication House Republicans sometimes can’t even demagogue straight.

By the way, anyone doubting that getting rid of IPAB is a bad idea for Democrats should be aware that the main “Democratic” proponent of this “bipartisan” measure is that intrepid Fox Democrat Doug Schoen (who published an essay on the subject–typically–at Forbes). You can’t much go wrong ignoring the advice of Mr. Schoen, ever.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.