The front page headline in the New York Times deflects the point: “Panel to Curb Medicare Costs Meets Bipartisan Opposition.” An uninformed person might wonder why anyone would be opposed to a panel that would help control costs.
Because this “panel” is the Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board, and true to the mendacity of Obamacare, it is far from “advisory.” The Board members—and that means the bureaucracy—have been delegated legislative authority that is potentially more powerful than that of the Congress, and even can overcome a presidential veto. In short, the IPAB, unless curbed, could well be the cornerstone for a new and unaccountable bureaucratic state. (For more details about the IPAB and its method of undemocratically imposing cost cutting on the country, read my Weekly Standard piece, “Our New Obamacare Masters. “)
I warned then that the currently relatively relatively limited tools the IPAB would have to control costs (no rationing, for example) could easily be expanded. And that seems precisely where things may be headed, if our president has his way. As I pointed out here at SHS, it isn’t even up and running yet and Obama has already called to expand its powers. This is a real threat to representative democracy and our federalist system—not to mention to vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities who also may qualify for Medicare.
And now, as the Times story reports, the opposition to the IPAB continues to grow. From the story:
But not only do Republicans and some Democrats oppose increasing the power of the board, they also want to eliminate it altogether. Opponents fear that the panel, known as the Independent Payment Advisory Board, would usurp Congressional spending power over one of the government’s most important and expensive social programs.
Fear? It unequivocally would:
Lawmakers do not agree. Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin and chairman of the House Budget Committee, called it “a rationing board” and said Congress should not “delegate Medicare decision-making to 15 people appointed by the president.” He said Mr. Obama’s proposal would allow the board to “impose more price controls and more limitations on providers, which will end up cutting services to seniors.”
Representative Allyson Y. Schwartz, a Pennsylvania Democrat prominent on health care issues, said: “It’s our constitutional duty, as members of Congress, to take responsibility for Medicare and not turn decisions over to a board. Abdicating this responsibility, whether to insurance companies or to an unelected commission, undermines our ability to represent our constituents, including seniors and the disabled.” Ms. Schwartz signed up on Friday as co-sponsor of a bill to repeal the board.
Even hard leftwing legislataors, like California’s Pete Stark, aren’t buying:
“Why have legislators?” asked Representative Pete Stark of California, the senior Democrat on the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health. In some ways, Mr. Stark said, expanding the power of the board could be as bad as giving vouchers to Medicare beneficiaries to buy private insurance. “In theory at least, you could set the vouchers at an adequate level,” he said. “But, in its effort to limit the growth of Medicare spending, the board is likely to set inadequate payment rates for health care providers, which could endanger patient care.”
One wonders why Stark voted for this mess in the first place, but as the old saying goes, you don’t complain because a mule only flies a few feet off the ground.
It is very encouraging that the rebellion has gained such strength that the Pro Obama Times has taken notice. Obamacare has the potential of undermining our freedom and imposing authoritarian controls over our medical care—even the way we live our lives in the name of promoting wellness. Moreover, as I pointed out in the Standard, once cowardly politicians were able to slough off tough decisions to unelected boards, it wouldn’t stop with the IPAB.
It is going to be tough, but we may yet avoid this bullet.