Sebelius Faces Congressional Hot Seat Over Obamacare Rationing

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 13, 2011   |   6:35PM   |   Washington, DC

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius faced the hot seat this week in two different Congressional hearings about the future of American health care and rationing under Obamacare.

Rep. Paul Ryan, a pro-life Wisconsin Republican, used the occasion to question the abortion advocate about one of the most lethal aspects of the President’s plan: Medicare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB. Ryan chipped away at the claim that IPAB would “protect Medicare” and he said there is a better way to solve Medicare’s financial crisis without rationing care.

“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.”

“All final decisions remain in the hands of Congress,” Sebelius said in her prepared statement. “If Medicare costs are rising at an unsustainable rate, it’s Congress’s choice whether to accept those recommendations, or come up with recommendations of its own to put Medicare spending on a stable, sustainable path.”

But Rep. Joe Pitts, a pro-life Pennsylvania Republican, said there is “widespread opposition” to IPAB.

“This is not surprising, since the decisions of the board will become law by a fast track process that will bypass the usual legislative procedures, in effect superseding the customary jurisdiction of committees like this one,” said Pitts. Rep. Frank Pallone, a Democrat, also voiced his opposition to IPAB, and Rep. Allyson Schwartz, a Pennsylvania Democrat, did as well.

Two pro-life advocates — Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and Burke Balch of National Right to Life — both agree.

Perkins 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.”