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Committee Should Expedite Bipartisan IPAB Repeal

by Nan Swift / /

The Honorable Michael Burgess
Chairman, Health Subcommittee                  
Energy and Commerce Committee               
House of Representatives                            

The Honorable Gene Green
Ranking Member, Health Subcommittee
Energy and Commerce Committee
House of Representatives

Dear Representatives Burgess and Green:

On behalf of the National Taxpayers Union, thank you for holding the hearing, “Examining Bipartisan Legislation to Improve the Medicare Program.” This is an essential and timely topic for consideration.

Last week’s Medicare Trustees report narrowly avoided triggering the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) and projected a slightly later depletion of the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund in 2029. Far from a rosy scenario, the news was merely slightly “less-bad” than expected and confirmed the persistent reality that Medicare is on an unsustainable path.  Already, low reimbursement and payment rates create challenges for Medicare consumers trying to obtain physician and hospital care. As Medicare requires a greater proportion of our federal budget. Comprehensive, innovative reforms are needed to ensure the long-term sustainability of Medicare, as well as avoid economic disaster. The longer Congress postpones these tough decisions, the harder those choices will be.

This Committee should be applauded for taking the time to fully weigh the issue at hand and examine bipartisan solutions to Medicare’s growing problems. H.R. 849, the “Protecting Seniors’ Access to Medicare Act 2017,” which would fully and permanently repeal IPAB is just one such bipartisan legislative option.

IPAB is not the proper way to address Medicare’s profound fiscal issues. The board lacks essential accountability and the few cost-saving solutions it’s afforded could have dire consequences for Medicare consumers. Restrictions against increasing beneficiary premiums, reducing benefits, increasing cost-sharing, or modifying eligibility requirements all severely limit cost-cutting options. This artificial bias against real, long-term reform leaves only price-controls and care-rationing on the table. At the same time, even the most aggressive cuts to physician fees or prescription benefits will do little to alleviate the long-term outlook.

To that end, NTU commends for your support H.R. 849 and urges your Committee to act quickly to move the bill forward. This legislation is an important, bipartisan measure that would increase accountability and avoid the threat of care-rationing at the hands of bureaucrats.  

Sincerely,

Nan Swift, Federal Affairs Manager