In the wake of rising Democratic — and universal Republican — opposition to Obamacare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will appear on Capitol Hill this morning to testify before the House Budget Committee, chaired by Paul Ryan. IPAB, a planned 15-member board of government officials, will materialize under Obamacare if the health care overhaul is not repealed. The unelected board would be empowered to cut Medicare spending, and its dictates would have the force of law. It would operate as a sort of surrogate lawmaking body — largely unaccountable to the real one — in what would appear to be plain defiance of the Constitution.
Yesterday, Politico reported that Democrats were “far from united” in their support for IPAB. President Obama, however, has not only championed it, but he also doubled down on it in his do-over budget speech. In his speech, Obama called for “strengthening” IPAB and empowering it to make even deeper Medicare cuts. Even if a simple majority of both houses of Congress were to vote not to cut Medicare to such a degree, they would be powerless to stop the cuts from going into effect. Such are the Obamacare rules.
This is too much even for some Democrats. Politico reports that “New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone, of the Energy and Commerce health subcommittee, has zero interest in defending the board. ‘I’ve never supported it, and I would certainly be in favor of abolishing it,’ he told POLITICO. ‘I’m opposed to independent commissions or outside groups playing a role other than on a recommendatory basis.’”
Politico writes, “In recent weeks, several [Obamacare] supporters — such as the American Medical Association, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and Democratic Rep. Allyson Schwartz of Pennsylvania — have voiced support for a Republican plan to repeal the measure.”
In fact, according to Politico, “Schwartz will be one of the GOP’s star witnesses at the Energy and Commerce Committee hearing,” which will hear IPAB testimony on Wednesday, including further testimony from Sebelius.
Politico continues: “Schwartz said the House opposition to IPAB shouldn’t be surprising. The provision was not a part of the House version of the health reform legislation, and when it showed up in the Senate version, over 100 House members — both Republicans and Democrats — wrote letters to then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) asking for it to be removed. ‘There was a great deal of hesitation about IPAB in the House, and we did not include it in our bill,’ [Schwartz] said.”
Politico adds that Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.) — who credulously calls IPAB “a fail-safe mechanism” — “said IPAB’s opponents have to find an alternative that would help Congress control the rising costs of Medicare. ‘The burden is on those who want to repeal it to propose an alternative that would accomplish the purpose of preserving Medicare and its solvency,’ he said.”
Fortunately Paul Ryan and the House Republicans have offered just such an alternative. Whereas Obama and the IPAB would simply reduce Medicare spending — using that money to fund Obamacare — Ryan’s plan would actually reduce Medicare costs. Through increased competition and choice, Ryan’s plan would actually make health care more affordable, while IPAB would simply ration it.