Senate Reintroduces IPAB Repeal Bill

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GOP senators have introduced a companion bill to the bi-partisan legislation introduced in the House last month that would repeal the Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB).

The 15-member board was created by the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and is set to become operational this year. Its task is to hold down the cost of Medicare by independently reviewing what Medicare pays for and suggesting spending cuts if the program grows faster than a certain rate.

Critics, including the American Medical Association and the ACR, say there are already systems in place for determining cost and coverage decisions for Medicare. IPAB would be another arbitrary system that relies just on spending cuts to hold down costs.

The bill (S. 351) is sponsored by 30 Republican senators including lead sponsor John Cornyn (R-Texas) and the powerful Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).
“Instead of putting patients and doctors in charge of personal health care decisions, the IPAB empowers government and leaves the tough medical choices up to unelected Washington bureaucrats," Hatch said in a statement.

So far the Obama administration, which is charged with nominating the health care experts that would make up the board, has not announced any IPAB members. In addition, the slow growth of Medicare spending noted in the latest Congressional Budget Office report means that IPAB spending cuts would not be triggered even if they had been in effect.

Still, the potential of what a fully-functioning IPAB-type entity could do has many health care organizations concerned. Last month, the ACR sent a letter of support to the Representatives sponsoring the House bill repealing IPAB. It also encouraged its members to contact their elected officials ask them to support the repeal of IPAB.

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