Even Washington Post Concedes IPAB is “Controversial”

By Dave Andrusko

‘It sounds like a new Apple Inc. product, but IPAB is actually a controversial board at the heart of a highly charged battle over Medicare, the federal health program for the elderly and disabled.”

From “Controversial health board braces for continued battles over Medicare,” which ran yesterday in the Washington Post. The IPAB is the Independent Payment Advisory Board.

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It’s not often that you can read something in the Washington Post that (even if the oomph of the beginning gets lost along the way) captures a danger in ObamaCare. The story whose opening paragraph I quoted above was written by Bara Vaida of Kaiser Health News, which describes itself as “an editorially independent news service of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy organization that isn’t affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.”

The idea behind the piece, the reader is told, is to “look at the issues” surrounding the IPAB. Some of what followed is simple fact, other parts highly subjective. But the introduction is most useful, given the source. Vaida writes

“The Independent Payment Advisory Board was created by the 2010 health care law. Last month, in releasing his deficit-reduction plan, President Obama called for increasing the panel’s authority, saying it was critical to controlling the costs of the program, estimated at $524 billion in fiscal 2010. Republicans and some Democrats have denounced the IPAB, saying it will be made up of unelected bureaucrats who will wind up rationing care to Medicare beneficiaries.”

At this point it is important to quote someone who focuses on why pro-lifers are so critical of the IPAB: Burke Balch, J.D., director of National Right to Life’s Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics. The following appears in the April/May issue of National Right to Life News. If you are not a subscriber, go to http://www.nrlc.org/news/subscribe.html or call 202-626-8828

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Even Critics of ObamaCare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board Miss Its Worst Rationing

By Burke J. Balch, J.D 

Recently there has been a fair amount of press coverage of the effort to repeal a central aspect of the Obama Health Care Law—the unelected 18-member Independent Payment Advisory Board given sweeping powers to limit what people are allowed to spend for health care. Strangely, however, most critics focus only on its impact on Medicare spending, and at least one of its defenders appears ignorant of the authority it will exercise to limit Americans’ use of their own private funds.

Democratic representatives are increasingly joining Republicans in co-sponsoring H.R. 452, a bill to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board. As noted in an April 19 New York Times article by Robert Pear,

“Democrats and Republicans are joining to oppose one of the most important features of President Obama’s new deficit reduction plan, a powerful independent board that could make sweeping cuts in the growth of Medicare spending. Mr. Obama wants to expand the power of the 15-member [sic] panel, which was created by the new health care law, to rein in Medicare costs. But not only do Republicans and some Democrats oppose increasing the power of the board, they also want to eliminate it altogether. Opponents fear that the panel, known as the Independent Payment Advisory Board, would usurp Congressional spending power over one of the government’s most important and expensive social programs. Under the law, spending cuts recommended by the presidentially appointed panel would take effect automatically unless Congress voted to block or change them. In general, federal courts could not review actions to carry out the board’s recommendations.”

In an April 21 piece defending the board, Paul Krugman, one of the paper’s op-ed columnists, wrote, “Before you start yelling about ‘rationing’ and ‘death panels,’ bear in mind that we’re not talking about limits on what health care you’re allowed to buy with your own (or your insurance company’s) money. We’re talking only about what will be paid for with taxpayers’ money.”

Yet Krugman’s statement is flatly wrong.

As documented with specific quotes from the legislation at http://bit.ly/itblQZ, the Obama Health Care Law specifically directs the board to make “recommendations to slow the growth in national health expenditures” for private—not just governmentally funded—dollars devoted to health care. These recommendations are supposed to limit what ordinary citizens and their health insurance coverage can pay for medical treatment to force it below the rate of medical inflation.

To implement these recommendations, the federal Department of Health and Human Services is empowered to impose so-called “quality” and “efficiency” measures on health care providers. Doctors who violate a “quality” standard by prescribing more lifesaving medical treatment than it permits will be disqualified from contracting with any of the health insurance plans that individual Americans, under the Obama Health Care Law, will be mandated to purchase. Few doctors would be able to remain in practice if subjected to that penalty.

This means that treatment that a doctor and patient deem advisable to save that patient’s life or preserve or improve the patient’s health, but which exceeds the standard imposed by the government, will be denied even if the patient is willing and able to pay for it.

“It is truly astounding that this extreme form of rationing has gone almost unremarked even by critics of the Independent Payment Advisory Board,” said National Right to Life Executive Director David N. O’Steen, Ph.D. “That means it is up to grassroots pro-lifers to make both their elected representatives and media outlets aware of the facts, and of how important it is that the Independent Payment Advisory Board be repealed.”

More details on the rationing in the Obama Health Care Law are available at http://bit.ly/161yrt.

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