500 groups urge repeal of ObamaCare cost-cutting panel

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Over 500 organizations are calling on Congress to repeal a Medicare cost-cutting board that is part of ObamaCare. 

{mosads}At issue is the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), charged with coming up with ways to cut Medicare spending if it rises above a certain threshold. 

The board has not been set up yet, and has faced strong opposition from Republicans who say it would diminish seniors’ access to care. Opponents of the healthcare law condemned the IPAB as a “death panel” during the congressional debate over the law.

The 500 groups (which include multiple chapters of the same organization), are largely healthcare providers, and are worried about cuts in payments under the board.

The letter to Congress argues that because the board must achieve savings in a one-year timeframe, it will simply cut payments to providers rather than make long-term improvements to the programs efficiency. 

“Instead of pursuing long-term reforms that may not achieve immediate savings, IPAB is more likely to consider short-term savings in the form of payment cuts for healthcare providers,” it states.

“This would be devastating for patients, affecting access to care and innovative therapies,” the letter adds.

The letter, which is signed by groups including the Healthcare Leadership Council, American Medical Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Vietnam Veterans of America, also warns of an “unacceptable” decision-making process.

An “unelected board without adequate oversight or accountability would be taking actions historically reserved for the public’s elected representatives in the U.S. House and Senate,” it states.

The groups also warn that if the board is not set up, its powers transfer to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, which they say is too much power for one person. 

Legislation to repeal the board sponsored by Reps. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) and Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) has 222 co-sponsors, including 19 Democrats. 

While some opponents of ObamaCare have called the IPAB a “death panel,” the board is banned by law from recommending changes that would ration care or require seniors to pay a higher share of costs. Its reforms are intended to focus on efficiency in Medicare’s payment system. 

In 2013, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) wrote to President Obama saying they refused to recommend appointments to the board. The law requires that the president consult with those leaders on appointments. 

“Because the law will give IPAB’s 15 unelected, unaccountable individuals the ability to deny seniors access to innovative care, we respectfully decline to recommend appointments,” they wrote. 

Obama has not nominated anyone to the board. Nominees require Senate confirmation, which would set off a battle in Congress.

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