More Attention Will be Paid This Week to Independent Payment Advisory Board

By Dave Andrusko

Pro-abortion President Barack Obama

Its acronym—IPAB—has been likened to a new Apple Inc. product but in truth the Independent Payment Advisory Board is anything but a harmless novelty computer gizmo. The IPAB is the highly controversial component of the even more controversial ObamaCare foisted on the American public in 2010.

National Right to Life’s Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics has closely tracked ObamaCare in general, the IPAB in particular. We’ve published the influential analyses of Burke Balch, JD, and Jennifer Popik, JD on numerous occasions. (For ongoing updates see also http://powellcenterformedicalethics.blogspot.com)

According to POLITICO, Republicans who remain unified in their opposition to “President Barack Obama’s landmark law” are holding two congressional hearings this week on the IPAB. But as Mr. Balch and Mrs. Popik have explained in their detailed analyses, the Democratic caucus has long been fractured over the Board and continues to be so today.

As the New York Times wrote three months ago “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. …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 this morning’s POLITICO, we read

“In recent weeks, several health reform supporters — such as the American Medical Association, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and Democratic Rep. Allyson Schwartz of Pennsylvania — have voiced support for a Republican plan to repeal the measure.”

Mrs. Popik has explained in more detail some of NRLC’s problems with the IPAB which goes beyond what you read in most news accounts.

Although many news accounts have focused on the Board’s mandate to impose Medicare cuts that a Congressional majority may not reduce, less attention has been given to the IPAB’s role in reducing what all Americans will be permitted to use out of their own private funds for their family’s health care. The Obama law directs the IPAB to issue recommendations to limit what ordinary citizens and their health insurance coverage can pay for medical treatment so as to prevent it from keeping up with 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.”

There has been another squabble over rumors that President Obama Administration is considering making what are called “recess appointments” which could ensure the Board’s operation even if the Senate refused or appeared unlikely to confirm those whom President Obama will appoint as its members to the Board. Responding to an inquiry from pro-life Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), the non-partisan Congressional Research Service concluded that President Obama could make enough recess appointments, including a chair, to conduct business. While the law does not require the Board to begin issuing reports until 2014, it provides funding for its operations starting October 1 of this year when federal Fiscal Year 2012 begins.

We will keep you up to date on what happens this week in the House Budget Committee and the House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee.

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