Why the Roe-Sanchez Bill Matters

May 06, 2015
10:27 am

Thanks to the healthcare industry’s success in containing per-capita Medicare cost increases, it’s easy to make the case that there’s no urgency to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB).  Current cost trends are not going to trigger IPAB’s power to recommend harsh cuts to Medicare expenditures, and the President hasn’t even appointed a nominee to the board.

That’s why this is exactly the right time to erase an ill-conceived idea off of the board.  Better now than when its destructive consequences are on our doorstep.

U.S. Representatives Phil Roe (R-TN) and Linda Sanchez (D-CA), joined by 220 additional cosponsors, have introduced the Protecting Seniors’ Access to Medicare Act, a bill that would repeal the provision of the Affordable Care Act which created this board of political appointees with unprecedented powers.  In addition to having the support of a majority of the U.S. House, over 500 national and local organizations representing healthcare providers, patients, employers and veterans have signed a letter urging Congress to enact IPAB repeal.

This critical mass of bipartisan support exists because IPAB is, quite simply, a bad idea.  Not only does it shift congressional authority to an unelected board, but the legislation creating IPAB prohibits judicial or administrative review of the board’s actions.  And with IPAB structured so that cuts to Medicare must be enacted within a one-year timeframe to meet spending targets, it means that long-term reforms to improve Medicare value and sustainability will take a back seat to short-term cuts to providers that will reduce beneficiaries’ access to care.

There is a need to make Medicare more cost-effective and there are ways to do it that warrant discussion.  Granting sweeping powers, however, to a board that is not responsive to the public and taking actions that reduce patient access at a time when the Medicare-eligible population is rapidly increasing are approaches we shouldn’t be pursuing.

We’re fortunate that IPAB hasn’t yet been implemented.  Congress should rapidly approve the Roe-Sanchez bill before it is.

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