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House passes Roe legislation to repeal IPAB

March 22nd, 2012 11:21 pm by Hank Hayes

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe’s two-year effort to repeal an independent board created to rein in Medicare spending culminated in legislation that passed the GOP-controlled House Thursday.

Language in Roe’s bill to get rid of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) was combined in the so-called “Health Act” legislation filed earlier this year by U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga.

That legislation passed by a 223-181 vote, but was not expected to make it through the Democrat-led Senate.

In a conference call with reporters, Roe called IPAB the “worst thing for seniors” created in the federal government’s health care reform law, also known as the Affordable Care Act.

Roe, R-Tenn., stressed IPAB would limit Medicare payments to physicians much like TennCare, the state’s Medicaid program, cut physicians’ fees.

“Instead of dramatically cutting Medicare dollars, which will lead to decreased quality and access to care, we should be looking at ways to save the program and improve the quality of care we are providing our seniors,” said Roe, a retired physician.

According to the Obama administration, IPAB will consist of 15 physicians and patient advocates to be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

IPAB would then recommend policies to Congress to help Medicare provide better care at lower costs.

The Obama administration asserts IPAB is “specifically prohibited by law” from recommending any policies that ration care, raise taxes, increase premiums or cost-sharing, restrict benefits or modify who is eligible for Medicare.

Congress then has the power to accept or reject IPAB’s recommendations. If Congress rejects the recommendations, and Medicare spending exceeds specific targets, Congress must either enact policies that achieve equivalent savings or let the Secretary of Health and Human Services follow IPAB’s recommendations, according to the Obama administration.

“IPAB is a backstop — it would only take effect if Medicare costs grow too fast,” said the administration’s talking points on IPAB.

But Roe argued the federal government’s only choice under IPAB would be to cut.

“If the demand for services are greater than what you’ve got budgeted, you cut,” Roe explained. “If you cut the doctors 20, 25, 30 percent ... they will not see Medicare patients.”

Roe said more Democratic lawmakers would have bought into the IPAB repeal if a medical malpractice reform measure was not written into the bill.

“I think if we would have voted on the IPAB alone, we would have gotten 280, 290, maybe even 300 votes. When you put medical malpractice reform in there, you lose Democratic votes,” he pointed out.

With the Senate expected to reject an IPAB repeal, Roe said his job would be to continue explaining the board’s anticipated negative impact on seniors’ health care.

Roe indicated he’ll have a seat in the U.S. Supreme Court chamber next week to hear oral arguments on legal challenges to the health care reform law, which includes a health insurance mandate for individuals.

“I think it’s one of the biggest court cases ... if the federal government is given that power (to mandate health insurance coverage), what power don’t they have to tell you what to do?” Roe asked. “... I really believe this decision is as big as Roe v. Wade (that allowed abortion), Brown v. Board of Education (that declared public school segregation unconstitutional) and other landmark decisions. ... I think it’s a 5-4 vote and I don’t know which way that vote will come down (on the Supreme Court).”

For more, go to Roe’s bill is H.R. 4985. Gingrey’s bill is H.R. 5.

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