Our guest blogger is Neera Tanden, Chief Operating Officer at the Center for American Progress, who most recently served as senior advisor for health reform at the Department of Health and Human Services, advising Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and working on the president’s health reform team to pass the bill.
Yesterday as Washington was gripped by the contentious debt limit debate, Doug Schoen, a pollster by trade, took to the Huffington Post to assault the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) — a 15-member board of medical experts that was created by a provision in the Affordable Care Act. The board, whose members will be appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, is tasked with making binding recommendations to reduce expenditures in the Medicare system, unless Congress acts to alter the proposal or discontinue automatic implementation.
Schoen argues that IPAB will have to make steep cuts to meet annual targets. However, today, Republicans are proposing initiatives to dramatically cut Medicare, as the Ryan plan does and House Speaker John Boehner’s debt ceiling measure will likely do. Schoen says that changes to Medicare should be decided by elected officials, who will be held accountable for their decisions. But right now, members of Congress can lobby the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to pay for unnecessary or untested treatments that drive up costs.
The purpose of the IPAB is to ensure policies are not based on the special interests of legislators. Indeed, the IPAB will be comprised of medical experts who can spend the time crafting policies to lower Medicare expenses while improving quality of care and Congress can override the recommendations if they choose. The question really is, do we prefer Congress making decisions on health care delivery instead of doctors, consumer leaders and other medical experts? By taking the politics out of the equation, meaningful payment reform and cost containment can be achieved, as it will not be hindered by payment providers’ undue influence. In fact, lawmakers who oppose the IPAB have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from health care companies. This political sway was one of the key reasons Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) constructed the IPAB model, stating “It is long past time that Medicare payment policy is determined by experts, using evidence, instead of by the undue influence of special interests.” To further ensure independence, a majority of members must be non-providers and cannot hold any other jobs. Read more