Rife predictions of disaster are among us now that Obamacare (ACA) has been defeated in the Senate. Senator Ted Cruz may not be far from the mark when he says that annual increases of $7,000 per year in health insurance premiums should be anticipated since Obamacare was not repealed. On the other hand, the preservation of Obamacare means that coverage for pre-existing conditions will be continued. Medicaid funding (Medi-Cal in California) will be continued whereas under repeal of Obamacare Medicaid would likely be directed to the ashcan of political poverty. Keep in mind that federal legislators and their families have their own healthcare plan and are not dependent on Obamacare or even on any replacement that has been offered to date. That fact alone may explain why so many federal legislators know so little about the ins and outs of Obamacare or, for that matter, Any Care. A solution would be to dissolve the special health care coverage that federal legislators and Congressional staff get for themselves, including admission to military hospitals and clinics. Congress should have the same healthcare insurance that the rest of us are obliged to get. THAT would perk up Congressional interest.
Comes now HR 849, the Protecting Seniors Access to Medicare Act.
HR 849 would repeal sections of the ACA that would implement the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). The IPAB has been called a "death panel." This columnist, while favoring repeal of the IPAB, doesn't call it that -- here's why: the actual intent of the IPAB is to reduce the costs of Medicare. It is not expected to do that by pulling the plug on individual patients. The expected protocol will be to see to it that in certain situations the plug is never inserted. This issue is already alive and unwell with reference to cardiac pacemakers which The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has already determined as of 6 July 2015 will be restricted to patients with "non-reversible symptomatic bradycardia." This restriction ties the hands of cardiologists whose medical judgement is herewith cut to shreds.
In layman's terms, that means that your cardiologist may think you should have a cardiac pacemaker because you have asymptomatic Mobitz Type II Heart Block. THAT is the type of medical decision that the IPAB will be enabled to prevent from implementation. The decision-makers will not be obliged to report to Congress even though the entire panel will be political appointees and even though there is no requirement by law that any of them be a physician.
Reform of Obamacare is the way to go
It is probably correct Medicare costs are growing -- the constant stream of administrators and bureaucrats that clogs our healthcare systems is largely to blame. The first reform that we should make is repeal of the IPAB (the law as currently envisioned anticipates 15 appointees at $165,000 each). So let's start the savings by not appointing an IPAB panel and then by repealing the ACA provisions that enable the IPAB. Previously, this writer has stated that the IPAB is "a form of rationing with a special dagger aimed at the hearts of the elderly."
Implementation of the IPAB could conceivably extend a financial lifeline to the Medicare program while at the same time pulling life preservers away from patients. It has fiscal merit at the expense of the sick and injured whose healthcare needs would be subverted when the money originally intended for their care gets directed other than to patient care.
Our recommendation is to repeal the IPAB to enable physicians to provide treatment instead of the shackles favored by regulators who don't take care of patients.
At this time, there are two ways to repeal the IPAB: my choice is to improve the ACA. The other choice is to pass H.R. 849
"Medicare versus the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), "The Weinmann Report, www.politicsofhealthcare.com, 6/29/15
"Affordable Care Act & the IPAB," The Weinmann Report, www.politicsofhealthcare.com, 3/8/12
POLITICO, "I will insure that no government bureaucrat gets between you and the care that you need," 12/17/10
POLITICO, "How to ration care without using the R word," 12/14//10
The Hill newspaper, Washington, DC, "What Obama should've said about health reform." 9/16/09