Mitt Romney's dreaded unelected health board not so sinister
The Kansas City Star
Listening to Mitt Romney, you’d think we all have good reason to be afraid, very afraid, of something called the Independent Payment Advisory Board.
At last night’s debate, Romney said President Barack Obama “has as a model that a board of people at the government, an unelected board, appointed board, who are going to decide what kind of treatment you ought to have.”
Oh my gosh. Is the IPAB going to weigh in on the antibiotic I just ordered for my kid? My allergy prescription? My mom’s attempt to figure out why she gets short of breath so quickly?
Hardly. Romney, like so many Republicans before him, is exaggerating and demonizing a panel created by the Affordable Care Act solely for the Medicare program.
Its 15 members, which could include doctors, nurses, health policy experts and consumers, would be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. They would go to work only if federal spending on Medicare in a given year exceeds the targets set by law. The board would propose spending cuts in the program, and they would take effect unless Congress objects with a supermajority of votes or proposes its own cuts that would save as much money.
The IPAB is forbidden by law to ration care, cut benefits or eligibility or increase Medicare programs. It cannot, by definition, weigh in on treatment decisions for individual Americans.
What the board can do is reduce government payments to providers such as doctors and device makers. It can penalize hospitals with high rates of avoidable re-admissions or infections. It can recommend measures to cut wasteful spending.
Frankly, it is a very good idea to have a board dedicated to reining in costs in Medicare. The hope is that some of its recommendations and innovations will be adopted by other parts of the health care network.
Oddly enough, similar boards are written into the Massachusetts health care law, which Romney signed, and in the 2009 Patients’ Choice Act proposed by Paul Ryan, Romney’s running mate.
Whether it’s the insurance mandate or the IPAB or other elements of health care reform, Republicans are fine with the concepts until they have Obama’s name on them.