While the Senate engages in a heated debate over repeal and replacement of ObamaCare, it is possible that one of the most dangerous parts of ObamaCare could be killed almost easily. But the House would have to act fast.
The Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), known as the death panel, which, if it is allowed to live, will have more power over life or death than should ever be entrusted to an unelected board of bureaucrats, could be killed and possibly with a minimum of fuss. The Wall Street Journal explains:
The Independent Payment Advisory Board—what critics call the death panel—would be an unelected, unaccountable body with broad powers to slash Medicare spending. But the law contains a living will for IPAB. If the president signs a congressional resolution extinguishing the panel by Aug. 15, it will never come into existence.
The real deadline is closer, since the House plans to recess Friday and not return until Sept. 5. But if the House does act, the Senate will have time to follow, since it plans to remain in session until mid-August.
Why is it important to end IPAB?
The IPAB’s powers would be vast. If government actuaries find that Medicare spending would exceed caps established by ObamaCare, the board is required to write a plan to stay under the caps. Congress can pass its own bill to reach the target if it acts promptly—but if not, the secretary of Health and Human Services must implement IPAB’s plan, which would be exempt from judicial review.
Medicare spending has so far not exceeded the IPAB trigger, but eventually it will. Although the statute expressly forbids IPAB from “rationing,” that is scant comfort. Government-run health systems typically ration care by cutting payments to doctors and hospitals, something IPAB has the authority do.
Medicare’s trustees warn in their new annual report that “access to physicians treating Medicare patients may become a significant issue in the long term.” In the same report they predict that “approximately half of hospitals, 70 percent of skilled nursing facilities, and over 80 percent of home health agencies” would be losing money by 2040 under IPAB-enforced spending caps, “raising the possibility of access and quality-of-care issues for Medicare beneficiaries.”
The resolution to kill IPAB would require a three-fifths vote both Houses of Congress. There are 240 Republicans in the House, short of the 261 required votes. But quite a few Democrats did not vote for IPAP. Then-Rep. Pete Stark, a liberal Democrat, at the time asked, “Why have legislators?” if a powerful, unelected board like IPAP makes such decisions.
The IPAB resolution would be unamendable and could not be filibustered and thus would be easier to pass in the Senate than an ordinary bill to end this unaccountable bureaucracy.