Yesterday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed legislation to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a controversial panel created by the 2010 health care law. IPAB has been granted the power to cut growth in Medicare spending that could result in greatly reduced payments to health providers and doctors.
The bill, H.R. 452, the Medicare Decisions Accountability Act, has bipartisan support and passed out of the committee with a voice vote. Both Democrats and Republicans are concerned that IPAB has been granted extraordinary and possibly unconstitutional power over Medicare.
"When this bill passed out of the Health Subcommittee, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), the top-ranking Democrat, and another of his colleagues joined with all Republicans in support," said Pitts. "Medicare needs reform to control costs, but that reform should not come at the expense of transparency and accountability."
IPAB would consist of 15 bureaucrats appointed by the President, each serving six-year terms. The panel would have the power to cut reimbursements to doctors should Medicare spending grow too fast. Their recommendations could not be overturned by Congress without a three-fifths majority in both chambers.
"IPAB has been given unprecedented power," said Pitts. "They don't have to hold meetings open to the public or maintain open records. Also, doctors or patients cannot challenge their decisions in court. If IPAB cuts too deeply, it could lead to long lines for certain types of care or could discourage doctors from seeing Medicare patients."
The bill is expected to come to the House floor in the coming weeks. A majority of members of the House are cosponsors of the legislation, including 20 Democrats.