Major Democrat signs on plans to repeal ‘Real Death Panel’

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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Republicans have new a Democratic ally in their attempts to repeal a part of Obamacare as a new, higher-profile member from the other side of the aisle signed onto a bill to eliminate a board that would set Medicare reimbursement rates.

Rep. Allyson Schwartz, Pennsylvania Democrat and vice-chair of the New Democrat Coalition, has asked her colleagues to support legislation that would repeal Obamacare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB).

Rep. Phil Roe, Tennessee Republican, is sponsoring the bill that would repeal IPAB, which he told TheDC was the “real death panel,” 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 last month. “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.”

Schwartz is the biggest Democrat pickup for Roe’s plans to repeal IPAB because of her position in the pro-free trade, moderate New Democrat Coalition and because she was a major champion of healthcare reform. Roe’s already got Democratic Reps. Shelley Berkley of Nevada, Michael Capuano of Massachusetts and Larry Kissell of North Carolina.

In a letter to her congressional colleagues on Friday, Schwartz said she does, “embrace the goal of reducing costs,” but that she cannot condone the implementation of a flawed policy that will risk beneficiary access to care.”

“We can and will address the unsustainable rate of growth in health care spending. Repeal of IPAB will allow us to focus our efforts on the promotion of thoughtful innovations that will achieve cost savings by incentivizing efficient, high quality care for all Americans,” Schwartz wrote to colleagues.

If the board were to be implemented, it would cap the total amount of money Medicare recipients could get for care. Roe, a doctor before he entered politics, told TheDC last month that means health care decisions would 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. “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 could recommend different spending amounts than IPAB comes out with, 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.

Matthew Boyle