Republican Member of Congress, Phil Gingrey (GA), has decided that the moment has arrived to get back on offense in the debate for the future of Medicare.
At a press conference earlier this week, Gingrey returned to one of the GOP’s favorite ‘boogeymen’ in an effort to make us forget just how much we hate the Republican approach to reforming Medicare. He went after the fifteen-member panel of medical experts established by the Affordable Care Act who go by the name the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB).
According to Gingrey-
“Democrats like to picture us as pushing grandmother over the cliff or throwing someone under the bus. In either one of those scenarios, at least the senior has a chance to survive.
But under this IPAB we described that the Democrats put in Obamacare, where a bunch of bureaucrats decide whether you get care, such as continuing on dialysis or cancer chemotherapy, I guarantee you when you withdraw that the patient is going to die. It’s rationing.” (Via Politico)
Wow…that does sound scary! In fact, it sounds an awful lot like a …..Death Panel.
Thank goodness that absolutely nothing Gingrey said at his press conference beyond “My name is Phil Gingrey” has even the slightest connection to the truth.
Like it or not, here are the facts –
In order to keep Medicare spending under control, the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare”, established specific target growth rates for the government program that cares for our seniors.
To ensure that these targets are met, the reform law created the IPAB for the purpose of monitoring the growth of Medicare spending and to make recommendations to cut the same in those years where it looks like we are going to blow past the targets – and only in those years.
So, if the growth in Medicare costs is staying within the boundaries set by law, the IPAB has no authority to propose any changes whatsoever.
Why was it necessary to create this panel of experts?
Prior to creation of the IPAB, it was left to Congress to make decisions about who and what should be covered by Medicare.
While Congress has long had their own board of experts to rely on (“Medipac”), the profound influence of special interests combined with a general lack of understanding of the world of medicine – and the economics that rule that world – made it fairly obvious that Congress was not the best place to get the job done.
If you doubt this, simply look at how poorly Congress has managed the growth in Medicare costs to date. And before you blame this on whichever president you would like to put in the crosshairs, you should be very clear that it is, indeed, the job of Congress to make these decisions and manage this policy.
The IPAB was created to solve this problem.
As noted earlier, the board has no statutory impact whatsoever on Medicare payment rates and policy during the years when the spending targets are being met. Their powers only come into play in those years where Medicare actuarial reports suggest we are spending too much money per the restrictions established by Obamacare.
During those years when the board is required to come up with proposals to get spending under control, they will provide these proposals to the DHHS who must then implement them – unless Congress takes it upon itself to come up with their own proposals and pass them into law.
Thus, Congress retains the absolute ability and opportunity to effectuate its own program to bring Medicare costs back in line with the targets any time they wish. Maybe it was me, but I don’t recall Gingrey pointing out this little detail. And there is something else that Representative Gingrey forgot to mention during his tirade. There is an entire list of policy items contained in the ACA that are specifically prohibited to the IPAB.
And what would you imagine is at the top of that list?
What’s more, until 2020, the IPAB may not come up with proposals that place the rates being charged by primary hospitals and hospice programs in their sights. This prohibition was the result of the ACA already putting the moves on these organizations when it comes to what the government pays them. Thus, it seemed fair to give them some breathing room for the next eight years or so.
As a result of these inconvenient truths, it is rather difficult to concoct the scenario where Gingrey and friends see this insidious opportunity for the board to ration our health care.
The only argument I can imagine is to suggest that the board could recommend reducing the sums paid to physicians who provide Medicare services to patients. Were this to occur, more physicians might decide to drop out of Medicare, creating a longer waiting period for patients needing to see a doctor.
Of course, even this is not rationing.
Further, the SGR issue is about to become a thing of the past as Congress moves toward reaching a permanent solution to the problem created by an outdated formula that puts physicians in a position of taking major pay cuts from Medicare each year.
Once the physician payment issue is resolved, it becomes hard to see where the IPAB is going to exercise this health rationing Gingrey so fervently fears.
What should disturb each and every American is not only that Gingrey is willing to flat out lie in order to feather his political nest, he is using that lie to pull our attention away from the true health care rationers in our system – the private insurance companies.
Think this is a liberal red herring designed to distract you from the evil government plan to kill grandma?
Ask your physician about the hoops he or she must jump through to gain insurance company approval to do the job you hire them to do. Ask them how much of their time and money is wasted arguing with health insurance company representatives whose sole job is to turn down a requested procedure so that they will not have to pay for the same. Take a look at some of your statements from your insurer and see where they’ve denied payment on any number of technicalities resulting from a contract you signed that you could not possibly understand.
This is the true rationing problem in the United States today.
Still, polls continue to show that many Americans are deeply displeased with Obamacare.
I continue to believe that this is the direct result of so many of us not understanding what the legislation does – and does not – do.
But there is one thing we should all be able to understand.
If the opponents of health care reform and the current approach to Medicare are continuously left to base their arguments solely on lies, should it not occur to us all that maybe the law is better than what we’ve been led believe?
If not, why the lies instead of criticism based on the truth?
By: Rick Ungar, The Policy Page, Forbes, June 24, 2011
During his series of 19 town halls in Wisconsin several weeks ago, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) repeatedly criticized President Obama’s Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) for “rationing” care to seniors, cutting Medicare, and denying care to current retirees. The IPAB is a 15-member commissionthat would make recommendations for lowering Medicare spending to Congress if costs increase beyond a certain point. The reductions would go into effect unless Congress acts to stop them.
“[Obama's] new health care law…puts a board in charge of cutting costs in Medicare,” Ryan told retirees at one town hall in Kenosha, Wisconsin in late April, arguing that the IPAB would “automatically put price controls in Medicare” and “diminish the quality of care for seniors.”
But as the Incidental Economist’s Don Taylor reports this morning, Ryan has previously introduced legislation that included a very similar board to control health care spending. In 2009, Ryan introduced the Patients’ Choice Act (PCA) which “proposed changing the tax treatment of private health insurance and providing everyone with a refundable tax credit with which to purchase insurance in exchanges” but also sought to establish “two governmental bodies to broadly apply cost effectiveness research in order to develop guidelines to govern the practice of, and payment for, medical care.” Taylor writes that “the bodies proposed in the PCA had more teeth, including provisions to allow for penalties for physicians who did not follow the guidelines, than does the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) that was passed as part of the Affordable Care Act.” Both the Health Services Commission and Forum for Quality and Effectiveness in Health Care was tasked with developing guidelines and standards for improving health quality and transparency and were afforded what the bill called “enforcement authority”:
(b) ENFORCEMENT AUTHORITY.—The Commissioners, in consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, have the authority to make recommendations to the Secretary to enforce compliance of health care providers with the guidelines, standards, performance measures, and review criteria adopted under subsection(a). Such recommendations may include the following, with respect to a health care provider who is not in compliance with such guidelines, standards, measures, and criteria: (1) Exclusion from participation in Federal health care programs (as defined in section 1128B(f) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C.1320a–7b(f))).(2) Imposition of a civil money penalty on such provider
Like the IPAB, Ryan’s board is insulated from Congress and would have allowed true health care cost experts — the Forum for Quality and Effectiveness in Health Care even included 15 individuals, just like the IPAB although they do not appear to require Senate confirmation — to improve the cost effectiveness of the health care system. As Taylor observed back in 2009 when the board was first introduced, “any such effort will undoubtedly be called rationing by those wanting to kill it, and quality improvement and cost-effectiveness by those arguing for it. Whatever we call it, we must begin to look at inflation in the health care system generally and in Medicare in particular.” Little did we know that Ryan would be on both sides of that debate.
By: Igor Volsky, Think Progress, May 13, 2011
Health Care Hypocrisy: How Paul Ryan And House Republicans Are Contradicting Themselves Over Medicare
In the debate over the House Republicans’ budget plan championed by Representative Paul Ryan, it’s been remarkable to watch the contortions and contradictions in the GOP on the issue of health care. The cornerstone of the Republican critique of the Affordable Care Act over the past year or so has been that it would lead to rationing. While Republicans initially manufactured lies about this issue—anyone remember death panels?—they eventually focused on one provision in the bill that was focused on cutting costs: the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). As specified in the legislation, the IPAB is a 15-member board of medical experts who are appointed by the president, confirmed by the Senate, and tasked with cutting costs in the Medicare system, unless Congress acts to alter the proposal or discontinue automatic implementation. The legislation also specifies that a goal of such cost-cutting should be to actually improve access for beneficiaries. At a time when rising health care costs are a concern for families’ pocketbooks and the federal budget, the IPAB was a means to maintain public oversight of Medicare but insulate it from the normal politics of congressional decision-making, thus helping ensure that best medicine was the driver of cost reductions.
Republicans, however, viciously attacked the IPAB as being a bunch of unelected bureaucrats making decisions to cut costs at the expense of the quality of care seniors would receive. The rhetoric became quite heated: Congressman Phil Roe went so far as to call the IPAB the “real death panel.” Other Republicans, like Representative John Fleming, likened the IPAB to communism, saying, “It will take you back to the old Soviet Union, that’s the way they did things—with a central planning committee that set prices, targeted costs.”
Now, more than a year after health care reform passed, Paul Ryan, facing stiff opposition to his plan to end Medicare as we know it, has taken to attacking the IPAB as a way to rebut his critics. He’s arguing that, while his plan would keep Medicare the same for current beneficiaries, the IPAB “puts a board in charge of cutting costs in Medicare” that will “automatically put price controls in Medicare” and “diminish the quality of care seniors receive.” It’s this sort of dishonest vitriol that has led to 73 House Republicans, as well as some Democrats, to cosponsor legislation to eliminate the IPAB.
What’s fascinating about the posture of these cosponsors is that it runs into direct conflict to the vote the House took mere days ago on the overall Ryan budget, which passed thanks to broad Republican support. Indeed, the budget, which the co-sponsors voted for, changes Medicare into a voucher program in which seniors can only choose from among private insurance options, eliminating the public insurance that is currently at the heart of Medicare. In other words, rather than public officials, elected or unelected, making decisions as to what is covered in Medicare, the Republicans just voted to more or less privatize the program. So, , after all of their complaining about how the IPAB moved too far away from public accountability, they’ve just proposed eliminating all such accountability, insisting instead that private insurance companies know best.
Would Americans really feel better with insurance companies deciding whether they or their parents get the care they need? Probably not. The truth is that Republicans are not actually worried about accountability or giving Americans more health care options. They are not even worried about cutting costs: Medicare has a much lower cost per beneficiary than private health care now, so it makes no sense to privatize it in order to lower costs. What they are worried about is public health care; they can’t stand it—and are even willing to contradict themselves and hand people’s health over to unelected, private insurers to defeat it.
By: Neera Tanden, Chief Operating Officer, Center for American Progress, April 30, 2011
Health Care Reform in Massachusetts: State Model for the Affordable Care Act Is Working And Broadly Popular
The Affordable Care Act was signed into law one year ago. It is modeled in large part on the landmark Massachusetts health reform law enacted four years earlier in 2006. Opponents of the Affordable Care Act often attack it by distorting the facts about the Massachusetts experience. They selectively alternate between snapshots of and trends in Massachusetts and comparisons between Massachusetts and the United States.
The most appropriate way to assess the impact of the Massachusetts law is to compare changes over time in things like health coverage and premium costs in Massachusetts to changes over time in the United States as a whole. We use that approach below to debunk many of the myths opponents propagate regarding Massachusetts’s experience with health care reform.
Massachusetts increased health coverage while coverage declined in the rest of the country.
The Massachusetts law failed to significantly reduce the ranks of the uninsured in the state.
The Massachusetts health reform law dramatically increased the insurance rate in the state over a period when the national health coverage rate declined. As of the end of 2010, 98.1 percent of the state’s residents were insured compared to 87.5 percent in 2006 when the law was enacted. Almost all children in the state were insured in 2010 (99.8 percent). In comparison, at the national level the health insurance rate dropped from 85.2 percent in 2006 to 84.6 percent in 2010.
Employers continued the same level of health coverage in Massachusetts while dropping people in the rest of the country.
The Massachusetts health reform law is eroding employer-sponsored health insurance.
The number of people in Massachusetts with employer-sponsored health insurance has not dipped below 2006 levels since passage of the health reform law. Approximately 4.3 million people in Massachusetts obtained health insurance through their employer in 2006. This figure increased to 4.5 million in 2008 before returning to 2006 levels in 2010. In comparison, the number of nonelderly people in the United States with employer-sponsored health coverage declined from 161.7 million in 2006 to 156.1 million in 2009.
Since passage of Massachusetts’s health reform law, a larger share of the state’s employers have offered health insurance to their workers when compared to the United States as a whole. At the national level only 60 percent of employers offered health coverage to their employees in 2005. This is significantly lower than Massachusetts’s rate of 70 percent at that time. The Massachusetts rate increased to 76 percent in 2009, which is 7 percentage points higher than the national figure for 2010.
People buying insurance on their own in Massachusetts are paying lower premiums. Premiums in the nongroup market have increased in the rest of the country.
Massachusetts residents are paying higher premiums in the nongroup market as a result of the health reform law.
Nongroup health insurance premiums in Massachusetts have fallen by as much as 40 percent since 2006 because health reform brought healthy people into the insurance market. In contrast, at the national level nongroup premiums have risen 14 percent over that period of time.
More than 98 percent of Bay Staters met the law’s individual insurance requirement.
A significant portion of Massachusetts residents are ignoring the mandate and only purchasing health insurance when they need care.
The size of Massachusetts’s individual market more than doubled after passage of the health reform law. This boost and the accompanying drop in the average cost of individual premiums were due in part to more healthy—and previously uninsured—individuals entering the market. Only 1.3 percent of the state’s 4 million tax filers who were required to and did report their coverage status were assessed a penalty for lacking coverage in 2008, the last year for which complete data are available. About 26,000 of these 56,000 people were actually in compliance for part of the year.
The cost of health care in Massachusetts is in line with expectations.
The Massachusetts law is bankrupting the state.
The fiscally conservative Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, or MTF, finds that under reform, “State spending is in line with what [the organization] expected.” An MTF report released in 2009 found that state spending on health reform increased from $1.041 billion in fiscal year 2006 to a projected $1.748 billion in fiscal year 2010—an increase of $707 million over the four-year period, half of which is covered by the federal government.
Higher-than-expected enrollment in Commonwealth Care, the state-subsidized health insurance program, initially raised fears that policymakers had dramatically underestimated the number of low-income uninsured in Massachusetts. These concerns, however, were unfounded. Commonwealth Care enrollment peaked in mid-2008 with 176,000 members. The MTF attributes the initial rapid growth in Commonwealth Care enrollment to the state’s early success in getting residents signed up for the program.
The majority of people in Massachusetts like the health reform law, and it has gotten more popular over time.
The Massachusetts health reform law is highly unpopular among members of the public, the business community, and policymakers.
Support for the law is strong among members of the public. Sixty-one percent of the Massachusetts nonelderly population approved of the law when it passed in 2006. Two years later, 69 percent of nonelderly adults viewed the law favorably. In a survey of employers conducted in 2007—shortly after passage of the health reform law—a majority of Massachusetts firms surveyed agreed that “all employers bear some responsibility for providing health benefits to their workers.”20 A survey of employers conducted a year later—after the individual and employer mandates were implemented— found that a majority of firms believed the law was “good for Massachusetts.”
The Massachusetts health reform law was also a bipartisan achievement, drawing support from both sides of the aisle throughout the process. The law was passed by a Democratic legislature with support from its Republican members and then signed by GOP Gov. Mitt Romney.
Massachusetts is building on its 2006 reforms to promote better quality care at lower costs.
Current Gov. Deval Patrick is proposing to ration health care in Massachusetts.
Gov. Patrick’s proposal would make Massachusetts a leader in nationwide efforts to reform health care delivery and bring down costs. The governor has proposed new tools for achieving integrated care—by holding providers accountable for working with each other and their patients to coordinate and delivery higher-quality care at a lower cost.
These innovative tools encourage providers to deliver better care—replacing the current payment system’s set of incentives that provide more care regardless of value. Indeed, more care can sometimes be harmful to patients. Hospital-acquired infections and medical errors are among the most common causes of preventable deaths and injuries in U.S. hospitals. Medical errors accounted for 238,000 preventable deaths in Medicare and cost the program $8.8 billion from 2004 to 2006. A recent study found that sepsis and pneumonia caused by hospital-acquired infections resulted in 48,000 deaths in 2006 and cost the program $8.1 billion.
The Massachusetts health reform law is a success story from every perspective. The state has expanded health coverage to almost all of its residents, maintained a strong market for employer-sponsored health insurance, gained the support of the business community and the public, and is moving forward in containing costs. We can look forward to a similar positive experience across the nation as we implement the Affordable Care Act modeled in large part on the Massachusetts law.
By: Nichole Cafarella and Tony Clark, Center for American Progress, April 13, 2011