Medicare Cost-Cutting Board Faces Mounting Opposition in Congress
On Friday, Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) became the fourth Democrat to co-sponsor legislation (HR 452) that would repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board created by the federal health reform law, CQ Today reports (Ethridge, CQ Today, 4/15).
Reps. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) and Larry Kissell (D-N.C.) also are co-sponsoring the legislation (Pecquet, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 4/15).
Details of IPAB
IPAB, which would include 15 health expert members, is tasked with making recommendations to reduce Medicare expenditure growth per beneficiary to the growth of the gross domestic product per capita plus 1% (CQ Today, 4/15). However, President Obama last week announced plans to develop a multiyear debt-reduction proposal that would ask IPAB to develop strategies for cutting Medicare spending growth per beneficiary to the GDP per capita plus 0.5% (California Healthline, 4/14).
Schwartz said the reform provision establishing IPAB cedes congressional authority to unelected appointees. She said, "Congress is a representative body and must assume responsibility for legislating sound health care policy for Medicare beneficiaries, including those policies related to payment systems," adding, "Abdicating this responsibility, whether to insurance companies or an unelected commission, would undermine our ability to represent the needs of the seniors and disabled in our communities" (Ethridge, CQ Today, 4/15).
According to The Hill's "Healthwatch," Schwartz is the most prominent Democrat to oppose IPAB because she is a known proponent of health reform and is vice chair of the New Democrat Coalition ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 4/15).
Lawmakers Respond to Obama's Call for Bipartisan Deficit-Reduction Work Group
During his speech last week laying out his debt-reduction proposal, Obama caught lawmakers by surprise when he called on House and Senate leaders to form a 16-person bipartisan panel led by Vice President Biden to develop spending strategies, CQ Today reports.
Obama said that Biden in May would begin holding "regular meetings with leaders in both parties, with the aim of reaching a final agreement on a plan to reduce the deficit, and get it done by the end of June." However, Obama apparently announced the group without any advance notice, CQ Today reports (Friel/Goldfarb, CQ Today, 4/14).
As a result, congressional leaders have been slow to name members of the panel. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has named just two senators, while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has named just one. In the House, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is expected to name fewer than four representatives, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has not discussed how many panel members she will select.
White House officials said that the president is "flexible" on the size of the group but that it is more important that the panel be bicameral and bipartisan (Brown/Raju, Politico, 4/15).