Although much of the political noise emanating from Washington, DC this week was about the White House’s refusal to cut spending and reduce the deficit in the face of the debt-ceiling crisis – another critical issue was on the table as well.  

IPAB (the Independent Payment Advisory Board) is a panel created in Obamacare and tasked with curbing the rate of growth of Medicare. What it really is, is a special death panel just for seniors – their very own special unaccountable government blob of treatment refusal. 

Earlier this week at an IPAB hearing called by GOP House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius had a tough time answering questions from Ryan and other GOP lawmakers about IPAB’s mission and goals.  In the same week that her boss President Obama blithely and incorrectly stated that America’s seniors may not receive their Social Security checks on August 3, Sebelius was only able to punt on critical IPAB questions, and completely avoid others.

For example, during a debate on Obamacare’s negative impact on Medicare Part D that provides pharmaceutical coverage for seniors, Ryan asked the Secretary if she was in favor of seniors having choices under Part D, her answer was “as opposed to what?” 

Well, um … as opposed to having choice, I suppose. 

The hairs on the back of the necks of most American seniors would stand up straight if they knew that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) had already shifted HALF A TRILLION DOLLARS from their Medicare to other Obamacare programs. 

When pushed to the wall by GOP Committee members, Sebelius had to admit that despite the $15M allocated to the start up of IPAB in 2012 that “work has not yet started.”  Madam Secretary, it’s July – We The People will assume you’ll be giving some of that money back to Medicare and our seniors as you have yet to anything with it.

That said, that IPAB has yet to be fully established is a blessing. 

Ms. Sebelius listed so many things that IPAB cannot do, one could be left wondering “why bother?”  What it can do, however – and why Conservatives, Republicans and many Democrat Members of Congress oppose it – is recommend lower reimbursement rates or no reimbursement at all for specific treatments.  No matter how you spin it, disallowing treatment to our seniors in any form is rationing.   And what if that rationed treatment is a new or emerging pharmaceutical or procedure that could save a life?  Death panel.  

As IWF Senior Policy Analyst Hadley Heath pointed out in her latest report What You Need To Know about IPAB, the average couple will pay $140K into Medicare in their lifetime, and pull at least $340K – a figure expected to grow with longer life expectancies.  Medicare is already nearly $80T in the hole, and anxiously awaiting 78 million new baby boomers over the next few decades. 

IPAB is specifically designed to bridge this gap between funds coming in and payments going out.  And how will it accomplish this task?  No matter how fast the Administration tap dances around it, the answer remains the same – rationing, withholding treatment, and the heartbreak that comes from it. 

Stay tuned for more important information on this critical issue – IPAB may ration healthcare, but at IWF, we will not be rationing our concerns.