Medicare is in serious trouble. The Medicare Trust Fund will be bankrupt in 2024, according to the 2011 Medicare Trustees Report — five years earlier than projected just last year.
Republicans have a plan to strengthen Medicare by giving beneficiaries more control over their health care, allowing patients and their doctors, not the federal government, to make decisions about their needs.
Recently, Democrats have gone to great lengths to denigrate the Republican plan to reform Medicare. Using “Mediscare” tactics, they have misrepresented the facts and tried to persuade the American people that the Republican plan will eliminate Medicare services for beneficiaries. These claims have been debunked by numerous impartial fact checkers.
Democrats are resorting to scare tactics because they need a smokescreen to hide their own plans for Medicare from the American public. They know seniors and the next generation of retirees probably won’t look favorably on a powerful new board of bureaucrats appointed to delay and deny care.
Democrats are under fire for stealing $575 billion from the Medicare program to finance new entitlements, even as the program careens toward bankruptcy — which could cause all seniors, current and future, to lose their benefits.
In the absence of a plan to save Medicare, the Democrats are falling back on the Independent Payment Advisory Board. Created under the health care law, IPAB would consist of 15 unelected, unaccountable members who can severely limit the health care services available to Medicare beneficiaries, while operating outside the usual system of checks and balances.
In addition, this group of 15 is authorized to extend their rationing to the entire health care system.
Beginning in 2013, if the chief actuary of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services decides that spending is expected to exceed certain targets, the IPAB will make recommendations to the secretary of health and human services to cut it. Barring an act of Congress, the secretary is mandated to implement these proposals.
The first set of spending cuts is expected in 2015. This is likely to be done through a “fast track” process, which allows no time for serious reflection on whether the IPAB proposals are appropriate; how the refusal to reimburse will affect care, or what the broader effects will be on the health care system.
Allowing the IPAB to operate outside the usual checks and balances has also raised serious questions about whether this provision of the law is constitutional.
Clint Bolick, attorney for the Goldwater Institute, has filed a suit in federal court challenging IPAB’s constitutionality “No possible reading of the Constitution,” Bolick said, “supports the idea of an unelected, stand-alone federal board that’s untouchable by both Congress and the courts.”
The legislation that created the IPAB anticipated how controversial such a dangerously powerful board would be. It states that the proposals “shall not include any recommendations to ration health care.”
Yet by slashing or completely eliminating coverage for certain treatments, the effect of the IPAB will be the refusal of health care for America’s seniors.
Medicare is not the only IPAB target. Beginning in 2015, the IPAB will be able to make recommendations for spending cuts in the general health care system.
The House voted in January to repeal President Barack Obama’s controversial health care law. We did so because tinkering around the edges is insufficient. It is fundamentally flawed and should be erased from the books.
And there is no provision that epitomizes the president’s vision of the future of the health care system more accurately than the creation of the IPAB — with its one-size-fits-all system of government control.
This is a crucial time for Medicare, the health care system and the nation. Medicare is going bankrupt and if we do nothing, today’s seniors and tomorrow’s will lose their Medicare benefits.
The Democrats’ vision for Medicare’s future is embodied in the IPAB and the power it grant to 15 unaccountable “experts.” The Republicans’ plan to strengthen Medicare is based on the belief that patients and their doctors know best
Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) serves as chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
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