COLUMN: Protecting Seniors and Supporting Solutions that Put Americans Back in Charge of Their Healthcare
President Obama confirmed the experience of many Americans with his signature health law last week when he noted that HealthCare.gov has been “a well-documented disaster.” The President is correct, but he did not go far enough: Obamacare itself has been the disaster. I continue to hear personal stories from individuals in Central Washington about the uncertainty and dramatic cost increases for families and businesses due to the President’s health law.
The House of Representatives has taken two important steps on repealing provisions of Obamacare and improve the healthcare system for Americans: repealing the medical device tax and moving forward on repeal of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB).
The House passed H.R. 160, the Protect Medical Innovation Act of 2015, to repeal the 2.3% excise tax on medical device such as defibrillators and surgical gloves. The bipartisan legislation to repeal the medical device tax would decrease the cost of health care, encourage medical innovation, and lead to more jobs in the health care industry.
Although it is a mouthful of federal “alphabet soup,” you may have heard of the IPAB, the term for an unelected, 15-person bureaucratic board created as a provision in Obamacare. Under the President’s health care law, the IPAB would be empowered to reduce the growth of Medicare spending by determining which medical procedures Medicare will cover. The IPAB would have the authority to cut access to Medicare services that many seniors depend on.
What is the problem with an unelected board reallocating medical services? This would effectively transfer legislative authority from elected representatives to appointed bureaucrats. Absent a three-fifths vote of the Senate—a slim possibility these days—Congress can only modify the type of cuts approved by the IPAB, not the amount. Even worse for representative government, if Congress fails to act on the IPAB’s recommendations, those recommendations go into effect automatically.
Not only is the IPAB unaccountable to Congress: under Obamacare its decisions would also be exempt from administrative or judicial review in the courts. President Obama’s former budget director called the IPAB the “biggest yielding of power to an independent entity since the creation of the Federal Reserve.”
Obamacare supposedly prevents the IPAB from “rationing” care—but provides no definition for rationing. It may be a central planner’s dream, but the IPAB is simply offensive to the principle of self-government and the separation of powers; it is also an ominous sign for the quality of care provided to seniors by Medicare.
IPAB is exhibit A for what Americans despise about Obamacare: a lack of transparency and a vast transfer of power to unelected bureaucrats with consequences for individual care. I cosponsored and support passage of H.R. 1190, the Protecting Seniors’ Access to Medicare Act, which would repeal the sections of the Affordable Care Act that establish the IPAB. Congress must continue to press for reforms that put Americans and their doctors, not the federal bureaucracy, back in charge of their healthcare.