Congress Halfway to Abolishing Obamacare's 'Death Panel'

"[The IPAB] emphasizes payment reductions at the expense of real Medicare reform."

On Thursday, the House of Representatives voted to repeal a key component of Obama’s oft-maligned (and ironically named) Affordable Care Act. During the debate over the act seven years ago, Republicans stood against a board which was vested with the disturbing power to ration medical care for patients.  

The notorious Independent Payment Advisory Board, nicknamed the “death panel” by critics, is controlled by 15 people at whose fingertips rests the degree of care to be received by the sick. The official aim of the board is to reduce Medicare while preserving coverage and quality of care. However, the American Enterprise Institute has noted:

“[The IPAB] emphasizes payment reductions at the expense of real Medicare reform. The constraints placed on what the IPAB can recommend were not accidental. The authors of the ACA support restraining Medicare spending, but only with government-imposed payment restrictions, not financial incentives.”

The board can advise Medicare cuts free of intrusion or oversight by Congress. It can fast-track its proposals, untethered by congressional control over the degree of cuts; the recommendations require a three-fifths approval in the Senate, or if not addressed in a timely manner, the cuts go into effect automatically.  

The board is also free from the constraint of the courts — it is completely immune to any judicial scrutiny or outside administrative influence.

The board's reach is nothing if not disconcerting. Thankfully, some have taken legislative action against the empowered arm of America's left-wing move toward socialized medicine. Phil Roe — Republican from Tennessee — introduced legislation in February that would pull the plug on the IPAB. Members of the House voted 301-111 to remove the board, but the bill’s fate in the Senate is still uncertain. The White House voiced support for the bill on Wednesday, noting that the board's dissolution was part of President Trump's budget requests. The repeal requires 60 votes in order to allow a simple majority to pass it into law. In the meantime, there are no current members of the IPAB; there won’t likely be, according to analysts, until at least 2021.

Obamacare was enacted in 2014 and has been plagued with problems. In addition to concerns such as the Independent Payment Advisory Board, the system is inefficient and has driven up premiums excessively. President Trump has promised to change the system; and hopefully, with help from the Republican-majority in both houses, he will do just that.