By Jennifer Popik, JD, Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics
Last week, the House of Representatives voted to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), an essential component of the Obama Health Care law, which became law two years ago. The House repeal vote was 223 to 181, although it is improbable that the bill will advance any further this year. The Democratically-controlled Senate has enough votes to block repeal, and the White House threatened to veto the bill earlier this week.
However, the House vote focuses attention on a little-understood but extremely dangerous element of the law that lies at the heart of the rationing the Obama Health Care Law—ObamaCare– would impose on generation after generation of Americans.
The IPAB is a board comprised of 18-members, most appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, that is charged with limiting the resources Americans will be allowed to devote to life-saving health care. While most public debate has focused on only one dimension of IPAB’s tasks–making cuts to the Medicare program, the government health insurance program for older Americans–the IPAB is also instructed by the health care law to make recommendations to limit what all Americans of any age will be permitted to spend for their health care, so that we will not be allowed keep up with the rate of medical inflation.
How would this work? The health care law empowers the federal Department of Health and Human Services to implement these recommendations by imposing so-called “quality” and “efficiency” measures on health care providers. (The documentation can be found at http://www.nrlc.org/HealthCareRationing/ObamaHCRationingBasicDOCUMENTATION.pdf.)
While most of the House floor debate focused on the massive potential cuts to the Medicare program, one Representative addressed the effects the IPAB will have on those with private insurance. Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC), the vice chairwoman of the Energy and Commerce Committee said,
“But here’s something that gets lost in this debate: IPAB doesn’t just apply to Medicare benefits for seniors who are on a government program.…If that weren’t enough, starting in 2015, the IPAB can make decisions about what private plans will cover. Yes, 15 people [sic] will be deciding what private companies will be covering. That’s what is fundamentally wrong with the health care reform law, and we should repeal the whole thing.”
While an earlier version of the bill to repeal IPAB had a great deal of support from many Democrats, the attachment of medical malpractice reform drove all but seven from the final vote.
While the full repeal of the IPAB would be a positive step, even without it, the Obama health care law is based on a financing method that makes health care rationing inevitable– including the involuntary denial of lifesaving medical treatment. Integrally incorporated into the Obama Health law are a number of provisions, in addition to IPAB, that implement such rationing. (Documentation can be also be found at http://www.nrlc.org/HealthCareRationing/ObamaHCRationingBasicDOCUMENTATION.pdf.)
David N. O’Steen, Ph.D., National Right to Life’s Executive Director, observed, “While poll after poll continues to demonstrate the unpopularity of the Obama Health Care Law, most Americans remain unaware of how under it the federal government will severely limit the right of private citizens to use their own money to protect the lives and health of their family members.”
O’Steen added, “It is critically important to spread the word so that the public will fully understand the critical need to repeal the Obama Health Care Law before its crushing limits on the freedom to choose life-saving treatment begin to force premature death on countless numbers of Americans.”
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