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Camp Opening Statement: Markup of H.R. 452 “Medicare Decisions Accountability Act”

March 08, 2012

Good morning.  We meet today to consider H.R. 452, “The Medicare Decisions Accountability Act.”  This legislation repeals the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which was a program included in the Democrats’ health care law.  

The most unifying feature of the IPAB is the strong bipartisan support for its repeal. Speaking in support of its repeal, Congressman Frank Pallone, Ranking Member of the Health Subcommittee at Energy and Commerce stated:  “I’m opposed to an independent commission playing a legislative role other than on a recommendatory basis.  It’s not the job of an independent commission to make decisions on health care policy for Medicare beneficiaries.”  

This Committee’s own Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Health, Congressman Pete Stark, has described IPAB as “a mindless rate-cutting machine that sets [Medicare] up for unsustainable cuts that will endanger the health of America’s seniors and people with disabilities.”  

As of today, the legislation to repeal IPAB is cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 234 members.  

Since its inception, IPAB has been the focus of continued and vocal opposition from across the health care community, because it threatens to reduce beneficiaries’ access to treatments and services in Medicare.  

Given the widespread concerns about the impact that IPAB will have on their ability to provide quality health care services and treatment, it is no wonder that Easter Seals, the Alliance of Specialty Medicine, the Veterans Health Council and the 60 Plus Association – groups representing consumers, physicians, manufacturers, small businesses, large employers, insurers, brokers and agents in all 50 states – support the repeal of the IPAB.

Although Members of Congress and the health care community have registered their concerns about IPAB and support its repeal, it is the general public who remain most vocal about ending this program before it begins.  

According to a recent public opinion poll, the idea of IPAB remains deeply unpopular: Seventy-three percent expressed concern that Medicare cuts recommended by IPAB could go into effect without Congressional approval, even if IPAB’s recommendations overturn a law previously passed by Congress;

  • Seventy-one percent expressed concern that changes made to Medicare based on IPAB’s recommendations cannot be challenged in court; and
  • Sixty-seven percent worry that IPAB could choose to limit which specific health services are covered by Medicare.

The American people have every cause for concern.  The vast and unchecked powers of IPAB go far beyond what, I believe, many of us ever imagined.  Simply, IPAB is a dangerous new government agency made up of unelected bureaucrats with no oversight, no accountability and no recourse for seniors to appeal any of IPAB’s decisions.  

Regardless of political affiliation, I believe that we all share a similar perspective about Medicare and the role that Congress plays in the future of the program.  Our colleague, Sen. John Cornyn said it well, “America’s seniors deserve the ability to hold elected officials accountable for the decisions that affect Medicare…”

I could not agree more.  Many Americans do not support the new health care law, because they believe it to be a power grab by Washington.  When decisions are made behind closed doors and in secret by 15 unelected bureaucrats, as is the case with IPAB, then the American people’s worst fears are confirmed.  And it proves why Americans remain worried that even more of the same is coming out of Washington.

There is a better way.  If we can agree on the repeal of IPAB, then we ought to also be able to agree on the need to work together to secure Medicare’s future, because it is fast approaching its expiration date.

Without reform, the Medicare Trustees have reported that Medicare will soon go broke and will not be able to provide the benefits so many seniors rely upon.  With more than 10,000 Baby Boomers becoming eligible for benefits each day, it is critical that we all work together to ensure current and future beneficiaries have continued and uninterrupted access to much-needed care.  And, we must be accountable for those decisions.

Rather than endangering Medicare beneficiaries, we should empower them.  Rather than make decisions behind closed doors, we ought to have those discussions in public with patients and providers in our hearing rooms and walking the halls of Congress, and we ought to consider the ideas of those affected.

The Democrats got it right when they named the IPAB.  It truly is the “independent” payment advisory board.  It is independent from seniors, independent from people with disabilities, independent from voters, independent from legal challenges and appeals, and independent from any accountability – and that is why it must be repealed.