Weekly Columns

Protecting Seniors’ Access to Care

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Washington, November 1, 2017 | Lani Short (202-225-6356) | comments

This week, the House is acting once again to protect Americans from one of the worst features of Obamacare by taking up my bipartisan bill, H.R. 849, the Protecting Seniors’ Access to Medicare Act, legislation I introduced with Rep. Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-CA). This legislation, which the House will consider on Thursday, would repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). The bill has 270 cosponsors, including 45 Democrats. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: the only thing bipartisan about Obamacare is its opposition, and this week’s vote is further proof of that.

As I’ve discussed before, the IPAB was given broad, sweeping powers to reduce Medicare spending when actual spending exceeds an arbitrary target. In other words, if too many people need health care in any given year, then Medicare spending will be cut the following year. The IPAB is a panel comprised of 15 unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats. The proposals put forward by the IPAB would be considered using fast-track procedures and, absent a two-thirds majority in the Senate, Congress can only modify the type of cuts to Medicare, not the amount. If Congress fails to act on the board’s recommendations, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services is given the power to implement the cuts unilaterally. Worse still, the IPAB is exempt from any judicial or administrative review. No matter your views on Obamacare, we should all be able to agree that giving a panel of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats, or a cabinet secretary in any administration, this much power is a bad idea.

I first heard about the idea of cutting Medicare spending using a panel before Obamacare was passed, and I joined a number of Democrats at that time to fight the board’s creation. The day Obamacare was passed, I filed legislation to repeal this board. This legislation is supported by conservative, liberal and moderate members, because outsourcing decision-making on Medicare to an unaccountable board would be a mistake, plain and simple. Further, my legislation is supported by nearly 800 groups representing every state – including patient advocacy groups, physician groups, pharmaceutical companies and many others. Opposition to the IPAB isn’t just limited to the House and outside health care groups, 14 Senate Democrats have cosponsored the Senate version of this legislation, so I am hopeful that Congress can come together and get this measure signed into law.

Nothing about this week’s action to repeal the IPAB puts off the need for broader action to repeal Obamacare and replace it with patient-centered reforms, but I am glad we are working to protect Americans from the worst parts of the law. Rest assured, I will keep pushing my Senate colleagues to keep their promise to the American people and act to repeal Obamacare. In the meantime, I will work with President Trump to protect Tennesseans from the real and disastrous effects of this poorly-written law. 

As always, feel free to contact my office if I can be of assistance to you or your family.
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