‘Real death panels’ set to face heat in Congress, courts

An often-overlooked portion of President Barack Obama’s prized health care law, the creation of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), will face heat in the coming months from Congress and from the courts. Congressman Phil Roe, Tennessee Republican, told The Daily Caller the IPAB is the “real death panel” in the health care law, as compared to “end-of-life counseling” provisions in Obamacare that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin once deemed “death panels.”

“This one is the real baby right here – and most people missed this,” Roe told TheDC. “What everybody was talking about, when you saw Sarah Palin and so forth, what they were talking about these advanced directives where you sit down and there’s sort of mandatory counseling – and Medicare paid for it. This IPAB got missed – and it’s the real death panel.”

The board would cap the total amount of money Medicare recipients could get for care. Roe,  a practicing doctor before he entered politics, said that means health care decisions will end up being based solely on cost, instead of what the best possible option is for Medicare patients.

“Basically, there’s a certain amount of money that’s allocated for Medicare spending each year,” Roe said in a phone interview. “Once you hit that amount that’s been appropriated, this board, this bureaucratically-appointed board, can then decide, not based on quality or need, but based on strictly cost.”

Congress can recommend different spending amounts, but has to offset any increase in one area with a decrease in another. If Congress doesn’t change anything in the board’s “recommendations” for how much money should be spent per Medicare recipient, their recommendations become law – even without congressional approval or the president’s signature.

The Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank based in Arizona, says the IPAB would, when implemented, have more control over Medicare payment rates than the “Federal Reserve has over banking or the Environmental Protection Agency has over the environment.” The institute is challenging the IPAB provision in the Obamacare legislation in the courts – and has countered the Obama administration’s motion to dismiss with a motion for summary judgment, which means the case is likely to move forward with some form of a judicial decision mid-summer.

Diane Cohen, the Goldwater Institute’s lead attorney on the lawsuit, told TheDC that of the more than 150 boards and commissions the health car law creates, she believes the “most notorious of those 150 boards is the Independent Payment Advisory Board.”

“There was a lot of controversy over it [IPAB] when Obamacare was being considered in Congress by both sides of the aisle,” Cohen said, referring to more than 50 Democrats who wrote to then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi voicing their opposition to it. “It was very controversial and made its way into the law just because of the manner in which the whole law was passed to begin with. Even the American Medical Association, who has supported Obamacare for some reason, had come out and opposed the establishment of the Independent Payment Advisory Board.”