Late Thursday afternoon the House of Representatives voted 307-111 to repeal one of Obamacare’s most dangerous provisions. A bipartisan coalition of 231 Republicans and 76 Democrats passed the Protecting Seniors’ Access to Medicare Act of 2017 (H.R. 849), a bill sponsored by Tennessee Republican Phil Roe and California Democrat Raul Ruiz that would abolish the controversial Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB).
IPAB was ostensibly created to control Medicare costs, but it won’t address cost at all. It will inevitably devolve into a rationing board that uses abstemious provider payments (i.e. price controls) to prevent seniors from receiving the benefit of lifesaving procedures and drugs. The model for IPAB is the UK’s National Institute for Health & Clinical Excellence (NICE), which uses a ghoulish form of cost benefit analysis to determine who receives care and who doesn’t.
This is precisely what IPAB will do if it isn’t repealed. Fortunately, the Medicare per capita spending rate hasn’t reached the level at which IPAB must be implemented. So the “Death Panel” hasn’t yet opened up shop. But, sooner or later, that per capita threshold will be crossed and 15 political appointees will begin making cost control “proposals” that will result in the denial of desperately needed medical care to real people.
Consequently, the Senate needs to act now. That’s easier said than done, of course. The bipartisanship demonstrated by the House Thursday will not be easy to duplicate in the upper chamber. This is why the Council for Affordable Health Coverage (CAHC), a coalition of employers, insurers, patient groups, and physician organizations, has urged Congress to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and repeal IPAB in a single bill:
Every day that IPAB remains on the books and CHIP remains unauthorized is a day that access to health care is threatened for two of our most deserved, vulnerable populations: children and seniors.… We urge Congress to move forward by tying CHIP funding to IPAB repeal and sending this measure to the President’s desk without delay.
CHIP is a popular and successful program that actually does some good for kids, so it goes without saying that the Democrats and the “news” media will accuse Republicans of “holding children hostage” if they pursue the strategy suggested by CAHC. But that’s inevitable no matter what the GOP does. So, what do Senate Republicans have to lose? McConnell and his bumbling assistants need to show the voters that they can accomplish something.
Killing IPAB by any means at their disposal is an excellent place to start.