Congress has the opportunity to get rid of one of the most repulsive and punitive parts of ObamaCare — the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), aka the “death panel”.
This unelected and unaccountable body has the mandate to make major changes to Medicare programs with virtually no congressional oversight. In the name of keeping costs “under control”, it can slash expenditures, which will hit seniors particularly hard. Cutting expenses here means rationing medical care.
IPAB was created under the belief that medical expenses can only be controlled by denying people coverage, instead of through productivity and increasing the supply of healthcare.
IPAB’s decrees will automatically become law unless Congress takes the immensely difficult move of overruling a decision through supermajority vote. History proves that engineering a supermajority on anything in Congress is highly unlikely, especially so in today’s poisonously partisan environment.
Worse, while making it all but impossible for Congressional revocation of a IPAB ruling, Democrats barred IPAB’s dictates from even being subject to judicial review.
Fortunately, IPAB has not yet been implemented, but once it is, the board’s virtually unchecked mandate to “find” savings in Medicare will come at the expense of the nation’s seniors. It would further erode independent decision-making by doctors and seniors, and instead place more of it in the hands of these 15 unelected committee members.
Believers in socialized medicine who saw ObamaCare as a stepping stone to their dream of a “single-payer” system claim that rationing is prohibited. But there is no legal definition of that term. In the real world, less money for Medicare means less medical care for the elderly.
We all know that, as a result of ObamaCare, countless people no longer have access to doctors or hospitals of their choice, and their premiums and their out-of-pocket expenses have soared. Failing to repeal IPAB will do for Medicare beneficiaries what ObamaCare has done for millions of American families: force them to pay more for their health insurance and get far less in return.
Another ugly result of IPAB meat-axing Medicare funding may well be what we see now plaguing Medicaid: fewer physicians accepting Medicare patients.
IPAB’s decisions will disproportionately harm the most vulnerable Medicare patients. Seniors who rely on today’s cutting edge, life saving drugs — which are often more expensive — may well lose access to them if the board, not their doctors, decides they aren’t a good value.
The good news is that opposition to this monstrous entity is growing. A new poll released by the Taxpayers Protection Alliance found that two-thirds of Republicans believe that “IPAB is one of the worst parts of ObamaCare,” and certainly one of the deadliest. Some 60 percent of Republicans see repealing IPAB (in addition to the individual mandate) as a big step towards repealing ObamaCare. Even some prominent Democrats now support repeal of IPAB and, in November, 76 Democratic representatives allied with Republicans in the House, voting to abolish the board. Now the Senate needs to take up the cause.
Republicans would thus be wise to dump IPAB while reminding voters that the GOP will not skirt its responsibility to America’s Medicare beneficiaries.
Congress is faced with several “must pass” pieces of legislation and Republicans should include getting rid of IPAB as part of any of these bills. The 2018 is ticking and there will be few other opportunities.
Steve Forbes is chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes Media.