Congressman Jim Gerlach (PA-6th District) voted Thursday to repeal a troubling provision of the federal health care law giving a panel of 15 unelected Washington bureaucrats -- known as the Independent Payment Advisory Board or IPAB -- unprecedented power over medical treatment options for seniors who rely on Medicare.
The 2010 health care law enacted by President Obama empowered IPAB to save money solely by restricting access to health care for Medicare beneficiaries. Under the law, the panel is required to achieve specified savings in years where Medicare spending is deemed "too high."
Congressman Gerlach voted in favor of H.R. 5, the proposed Protecting Access to Health Care Act, to repeal IPAB. The legislation also would enact medical malpractice reforms -- a cost-savings measure overlooked in the 2010 healthcare law.
The House passed the bill by a 223-181 margin. The measure awaits consideration in the U.S. Senate.
Congressman Gerlach issued the following statement following Thursday's vote:
"The massive federal health care law enacted two years ago gave Washington more control than ever over health care decisions that are better left to doctors and patients. We have taken a major step to protect the freedom of seniors and their families to decide the best treatment options rather than giving control to a 15-member board of non-elected Washington bureaucrats. This board would have broad new powers to make decisions about medical care yet board members would not be required to have any medical training or background. Further, the decisions of this board would have a huge impact on seniors' access to medical treatment yet the 2,200-page healthcare law does not require the board to meet in public or hold public hearings before rendering recommendations.
This legislation also corrects the health care law's glaring failure to enact meaningful medical malpractice liability reforms. Lawsuits that simply second-guess doctors' decisions make health insurance and medical care more expensive for everyone. A small dose of common sense will lower malpractice premiums to prevent doctor shortages, especially in rural communities, and make health care more affordable by eliminating tens of billions of dollars spent each year on tests that do not improve the quality of care patients receive."
More than 390 groups representing doctors, patients and employers voiced their support for repealing the IPAB mandate.
Marilyn Heine, President of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, said the legislation passed by the House Thursday is "essential to protect access to care for patients and access to jobs at risk for nearly 170,000 healthcare employees in Pennsylvania physicians' offices."
Heine added: "The IPAB is simply the wrong solution for addressing Medicare budgetary challenges. We need a workable alternative that adequately reimburses physicians and ensures that patients will have timely access to quality care. The IPAB's broad authority, the lack of flexibility in its mandate, and its reliance on physician payment cuts to reduce Medicare spending are among the most glaring problems. Importantly, IPAB would effectively subject physicians to double-jeopardy for cuts so long as the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula remains in place."