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House Votes to Repeal IPAB, Obamacare “Death Panels”

by Steven Ertelt | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 3/22/12 1:54 PM

National

The U.S. House of Representatives today voted to repeal a portion of the Obamacare law that pro-life advocates strongly opposed because it could lead to rationing of health care for patients across the nation.

Leading pro-life groups had been asking members of Congress to approve legislation that would repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which has been derisively called “death panels” by detractors.

Today, the Republican-controlled House voted for legislation to do just that on a 223-181 vote, with seven Democrats supporting the measure. The Senate is not expected to take up the measure and the vote could turn Obamacare into even greater election issue than it is currently.

The washington Post indicated Republicans and Democrats were divided on the legislation.

“When bureaucrats choose, patients lose,” Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) said about the board Wednesday.

Rep. John Fleming (R-La.), a practicing physician, called the panel “a socialist dream, but it’s a nightmare for the American people” that would adversely affect Medicare.   But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the GOP once again is trying to “unravel Medicare”and distract from their plans to overhaul the program.

Republicans “have said that their goal for Medicare is for it to ‘wither on the vine,’ ” Pelosi said Wednesday. “And [this] legislation is a part of the withering on the vine. It’s important for you to know that if you care about Medicare, if you depend on Medicare — this is the wither on the vine scenario.”

Concerned Women for America president Penny Nance told LifeNews she appreciated the vote.

“ObamaCare was signed into law in 2010, and its ramifications are astronomical, with IPAB being one of the most contentious portions of the health care law. Although the reasoning behind IPAB was to keep Medicare spending down, the facts show that it will ignore the essential problems associated with Medicare and lower costs by rationing treatment to seniors,” she said. “As a result, unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats will decide what treatments our elderly parents receive.  No longer will we be able to make decisions in conjunction with medical professionals about our parents’ needs; these decisions will be decided by reimbursement rates set by an inauspicious board. CWA views this as a small victory on the long road to stopping this egregious health care law that tramples economic freedom and religious liberties.  We will continue to shed light on the wrongheaded health care law until it is fully dismantled.”

Pro-life NRLC attorney Jennifer Popik talked previously about the pro-life rationale for ending the program.

“Integral to the Obama Administration’s stated mission to drive down what Americans choose to spend for life-saving and health-preserving health care, the IPAB is charged with a key role in suppressing health care spending by limiting what treatment doctors are allowed to give their patients,” she says. “While the focus throughout this debate has been on the IPAB’s  authority to cut Medicare with very limited Congressional authority to override or alter those cuts, National Right to Life has been emphasizing a still graver concern – one at the core of rationing in ObamaCare.”

“The health care law instructs the IPAB to make recommendations to limit what all Americans are legally allowed to spend for their health care to hold it below the rate of medical inflation.  The health care law then empowers the federal Department of Health and Human Services to implement these recommendations by imposing so-called “quality” and “efficiency” measures on health care providers,” Popik continues. “What happens to doctors who violate a “quality” standard by prescribing more lifesaving medical treatment than it permits? They will be disqualified from contracting with any of the health insurance plans that individual Americans, under the Obama Health Care Law, will be mandated to purchase.  Few doctors would be able to remain in practice if subjected to that penalty.”

“This means that treatment a doctor and patient deem advisable to save that patient’s life or preserve or improve the patient’s health–but which exceeds the standard imposed by the government–will be denied even if the patient is willing and able to pay for it. Repeal of IPAB is critically important to prevent this rationing of life-saving medical treatment,” she adds.

Rep. Joe Pitts, a pro-life Pennsylvania Republican, opened the subcommittee hearing meeting, the Hill report indicated, by arguing that the IPAB would make it more difficult to administer Medicare policy, saying, “Supporters of IPAB tell us there is nothing wrong with having 15 unelected bureaucrats making binding decisions about Medicare policy.”

“They are not troubled by the fact that there is no requirement for public comment prior to IPAB issuing its recommendations. That IPAB’s actions are not subject to judicial review does not alarm them,” Pitts said.

He said that, although the law claims the board can’t make decisions that result in rationing, the term is undefined:  “For example,” he asked, “is it rationing if IPAB slashes provider reimbursements to the point that doctors decide they can no longer see Medicare patients?”

National Right to Life called for approval of the bill that would repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board established by the controversial Obamacare legislation that funds abortions and prompts rationing concerns. The Obamacare measure is also the vehicle for the new mandate the Obama administration put in place that has drawn strong opposition from religious groups concerned that they would have to pay for birth control and drugs that may cause abortions for their members or employees.

“Repeal of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) is critical to prevent the rationing of life-saving medical treatment,” said Burke Balch, J.D., director of National Right to Life’s Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics. “The IPAB would recommend drastic limits for the Department of Health and Human Services to impose on what Americans are allowed to spend out of their own funds to save their own lives and the lives of their families.”

In a letter to members of the Subcommittee on Health, National Right to Life noted that  “[t]he Obama law directs the Board to issue recommendations to limit what ordinary citizens and their health insurance coverage can pay for medical treatment so as to prevent it from keeping up with the rate of medical inflation.”

The letter also noted that in order to “implement these recommendations, the Department of Health and Human Services is empowered to impose so-called ‘quality’ and ‘efficiency’ measures on health care providers. Doctors who violate a ‘quality’ standard by prescribing more life-saving medical treatment than it permits will be disqualified from contracting with any of the health insurance plans that individual Americans, under the Obama Health Care Law, will be mandated to purchase.”

“Simply put, the IPAB is bad medicine,” added Balch. “It is outrageous that a government entity would be allowed to dictate and limit what Americans could spend – of their own money – to save their own lives.”

The IPAB has come under question before and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius faced questions from members of Congress over the board last year.

“The Independent Patient Advisory Board makes recommendations to Congress,” Sebelius said. “It is forbidden by law to do exactly what the Republican budget plan does. They may not shift costs to seniors. They may not change benefits.”

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council has said the IPAB “could lead–not only to the death of patients, but also to the death of innovation.”

“This Board, made up of 15 unelected members of the President’s choosing, will be the sole authority over what kind of care–if any–we receive,” he explained. “Starting in 2015, IPAB will be tasked with bringing down medical costs–and unless Congress can find a super-majority to oppose them, IPAB’s recommendations will carry the force of law.”

“The Board could deny payment for certain care or medications, change the service options doctors have, and drive expensive, life-saving treatments out. Instead of discussing the options with your doctor, IPAB will be sitting at the controls in Washington making health decisions for you,” Perkins explained.

“What should control health care isn’t IPAB. It isn’t even Congress. What should control health care is the relationship between doctors and patients. Injecting more government into the equation only punishes patients and squeezes out the cutting-edge science that could treat them. This is just one more reason to contact your congressmen and tell them to not rest until ObamaCare is laid to rest,” Perkins said.

Balch said one of the big pro-life concerns with Obamacare is that it “requires the Independent Payment Advisory Board to make recommendations, which the federal Department of Health and Human Services is given coercive power to implement, effectively to limit what private nongovernmental resources Americans are allowed to devote to health care for their family so that they cannot even keep up with the rate of medical inflation.”

“In short, the Board will play a crucial role in limiting the ability of Americans of all ages to spend their own money to save their own lives,” Balch said. “While public attention seems focused on the Board’s impact on Medicare, too many overlook how it is charged with crafting measures that will result in the denial of life-saving medical treatment – rationing– for people of any age.”

The Medicare Decisions Accountability Act (HR 452), which is sponsored by Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) and 226 co-sponsors.