August 8: The ‘Patient Advisory Board’ that’s Independent of the People

August 6, 2012

“Obamacare: turning your doctor’s office into the DMV,” read one protester’s sign on the day of the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the unprecedented health care takeover.

Unfortunately, the posters were right. Contained in the law is a cool $15 million per year for a panel of unelected bureaucrats (the Independent Patient Advisory Board, or IPAB) who will be essentially tasked with keeping Medicare spending low. The President and Secretary Sebelius promise this won’t mean ‘rationing of services’, but the panel does have the power to dictate which procedures, prescriptions and providers are just too expensive for Medicaid patients to use. It also has another avenue for cutting costs: not paying back doctors who have provided services for Medicaid patients.

The CATO Institute goes on to describe how the panel will make its decisions:

When the unelected government officials on this board submit a legislative proposal to Congress, it automatically becomes law: [the healthcare law] requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to implement it. Blocking an IPAB “proposal” requires at a minimum that the House and the Senate and the president agree on a substitute. The Board’s edicts therefore can become law without congressional action, congressional approval, meaningful congressional oversight, or being subject to a presidential veto. Citizens will have no power to challenge IPAB’s edicts in court. 

Worse, [the healthcare law] forbids Congress from repealing IPAB outside of a seven-month window in the year 2017, and even then requires a three-fifths majority in both chambers… IPAB’s unelected members will have effectively unfettered power to impose taxes and ration care for all Americans, whether the government pays their medical bills or not. In some circumstances, just one political party or even one individual would have full command of IPAB’s lawmaking powers.

IPAB truly is independent, but in the worst sense of the word. It wields power independent of Congress, independent of the president, independent of the judiciary, and independent of the will of the people.”

IPAB will have the power to tell you which doctors you can and can’t see and which prescription brands you can and can’t use, if you’re on Medicaid. It will have the power to pay your doctor only a fraction of the cost of the services that he or she is providing you, meaning that many doctors will give up and stop seeing Medicaid patients altogether. It will take your health care decisions away from you and your doctor and place them exactly where they doesn’t belong: a board room in Washington, D.C.

Would you call this ‘protecting patients’?