Winning the Unpopularity Contest: Dems’ Medicare-Cutting IPAB

June 28, 2011

Growing Numbers Call for Repealing Democrat Plan to Empower Bureaucrats and Limit Access to Care

  • 270 healthcare groups are now voicing their opposition to Democrats’ plan to empower a board of bureaucrats (named the Independent Payment Advisory Board) to make healthcare decisions best left to seniors’ doctors and endanger seniors’ access to care.
  • Even several prominent Democrats have joined the criticism, saying that IPAB will limit seniors’ access to care and make “unsustainable” cuts to Medicare.
  • Despite these calls to repeal IPAB, the Obama administration renewed its support forthe panel




Last week, the Democrat plan to empower a board of unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats to make decisions about seniors’ healthcare ran into stiff opposition when a diverse coalition of 270 healthcare groups urged Congress to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) they created under the government healthcare takeover:


“All told, some 270 stakeholder groups signed a letter to members of Congress urging them to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board. The IPAB is a panel of experts, appointed by the president, that will have the power to cut Medicare payments.

“The organizations represent doctors, other healthcare providers, employers, drug and medical device manufacturers and some disease-specific advocates — in short, a robust cross-section of the groups that stand to lose as a new and powerful body looks for Medicare savings.” (Sam Baker, “270 Healthcare Groups Back IPAB Repeal,” The Hill, 6/24/2011)


This announcement comes after former House Democrat Leader Dick Gephardt similarly called for IPAB’s repeal, joining a growing number of Democrats and Republicans concerned about the “unsustainable” cuts to Medicare under the ObamaCare board:


GEPHARDT: “UNELECTED AND UNACCOUNTABLE” IPAB WILL “PROPOSE CUTS TO MEDICARE,” EFFECTIVELY RATION CARE: “Under the current law, IPAB will be an unelected and unaccountable group whose sole charge is to reduce Medicare spending based on an arbitrary target growth rate. … Just as important, these cuts are likely to have devastating consequences for the seniors and disabled Americans who are Medicare’s beneficiaries because, while technically forbidden from rationing care, the Board will be able to set payment rates for some treatments so low that no doctor or hospital or other healthcare professional would provide them.” (Dick Gephardt, “Medicare Must Remain a Responsibility of Congress,” The Huffington Post, 6/21/2011)


SEVEN DEMOCRATS SIGN ON TO REPEAL IPAB—AND COUNTING: “According to Politico, a bill introduced by Rep. David Poe, R-Tenn., to repeal IPAB hasseven Democrat co-sponsors. Thus far IBD has only been able to track down five: Allyson Schwartz, Pa.; Linda Sanchez, Calif.; Kathy Castor, Fla.; Michael Capuano, Mass.; and Shelley Berkley, Nev.” (David Hogberg, “IPAB Is Really, Really Doomed,” Investor’s Business Daily’s Politics and Markets Blog, 6/9/2011)


LEFT-WING GROUP: “IPAB TURNS MEDICARE INTO A SCAPEGOAT”: “‘IPAB turns Medicare into a scapegoat,’ said Max Richtman, executive vice president and acting CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. ‘Medicare will be forced to make reductions without addressing the rest of the health care costs.'” (Jennifer Haberkorn, “Medicare Pay Board Is Losing Vital Support,” Politico, 6/8/2011)


DCCC RECRUITMENT CHAIR REP. ALLYSON SCHWARTZ (D-PA) SAYS OBAMA’S MEDICARE BOARD WILL “CUT PAYMENTS” AND SHOULD BE REPEALED: “IPAB brings unpredictability and uncertainty to providers and has the potential for stifling innovation and collaboration. … We have a choice: Reduce costs through improved delivery of care or simply leave it to this new board to cut payments.” (Rep. Allyson Schwartz, “Opposing View: Repeal Medicare Board,” USA Today, 5/23/2011)


REP. PETE STARK (D-CA): IPAB IS A “MINDLESS-RATE CUTTING MACHINE THAT SETS THE PROGRAM UP FOR UNSUSTAINABLE CUTS”: “It is a mindless-rate cutting machine that sets the program up for unsustainable cuts. That will endanger the health of America’s seniors and people with disabilities.  It is an unprecedented abrogation of  Congressional authority to an unelected, unaccountable body of so-called experts.” (“Statement of Congressman Pete Stark Supporting Health Care Reform,” Office of Rep. Pete Stark, 3/21/2011)


It’s not hard to understand why IPAB is making even some Democrats start to squirm once you remember that IPAB essentially empowers 15 bureaucrats, who don’t even need a medical background, to make arbitrary cuts to Medicare:


OBAMA’S MEDICARE PLAN: EMPOWER “15 SAGES” WITH “THE POWER OF THE PURSE”: So 15 sages sitting in a room with the power of the purse will evidently find ways to control Medicare spending that no one has ever thought of before and that supposedly won’t harm seniors’ care, even as the largest cohort of the baby boom generation retires and starts to collect benefits.” (Editorial Board, “The Presidential Divider,” The Wall Street Journal, 4/14/2011)


BUREAUCRAT BOARD MADE EVEN STRONGER THAN UNDER GOVERNMENT HEALTHCARE TAKEOVER: “The president, for his part, answered Ryan’s budget by proposing an even stronger version of the board than the health reform law created.” (Jennifer Haberkorn, “Medicare Pay Board Is Losing Vital Support,” Politico, 6/8/2011)

WSJ: OBAMA MEDICARE PLAN IS MEDICARE “RATIONING,” WILL “THROW GRANNY OVER THE CLIFF”: “One place to start is by attacking the Democratic plan to cut Medicare via political rationing. … The ObamaCare bill goes to great lengths to shelter this 15-member, unelected board from Congressional review, with the goal of letting these bureaucrats throw granny over the cliff if Medicare isn’t reformed.” (Editorial, “The GOP’s New York Spanking,” The Wall Street Journal, 5/26/2011)


NOT A DOCTOR? DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT: “The appointment membership of the board shall include (but shall not be limited to) physicians and other health professionals, experts in the area of pharmaco-economics or prescription drug benefit programs, employers, third-party payers, individuals skilled in the conduct and interpretation of biomedical, health services, and health economics research and expertise in outcomes and effectiveness research and technology assessment. Such membership shall also include representatives of consumers and the elderly.” (p. 402, “Sec.3403. Independent [Medicare] Payment Advisory Board,”Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, 5/3/2010)


IPAB MEMBERS CAN SERVE UP TO TWELVE YEARS, OR TWO SIX YEAR TERMS, WITHOUT EVER FACING VOTERS: “Terms are for six years, and members may serve no more than two consecutive terms.” (Jack Ebeler, Tricia Neuman, and Juliette Cubanski, “The Independent Payment Advisory Board: A New Approach to Controlling Medicare Spending,” The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, April 2011)


ALL WHILE RECEIVING A TAX-PAYER FUNDED SALARY OF $165,300/YEAR:“IPAB members are paid at a rate prescribed for level III of the Executive Schedule, which is $165,300 in 2011.” (Jack Ebeler, Tricia Neuman, and Juliette Cubanski, “The Independent Payment Advisory Board: A New Approach to Controlling Medicare Spending,” The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, April 2011)


These facts, however, have not stopped the Obama administration from defending IPAB. Just last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius doubled-down with her defense of the law. When will Democrats abandon their plan to put bureaucrats between seniors and their doctors?:


HHS SECRETARY KATHLEEN SEBELIUS OP-ED “IPAB WILL PROTECT MEDICARE”: (Kathleen Sebelius, “IPAB Will Protect Medicare,” Politico, 6/23/2011)