House votes to abolish IPAB

The House of Representatives today voted 223 to 181 to abolish the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a 15-member panel of experts that has the power to, as its name suggests, independently of Congress cut Medicare payments to doctors and hospitals.

IPAB is one of the worst elements of Obamacare and would contribute mightily to the evolution of a single-payer system, as Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson explained in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed:

According to the CBO, 154 million Americans are covered under employer-sponsored plans. What would be the cost to taxpayers if 50% of those individuals lost their coverage and became eligible for subsidies? The answer is difficult to calculate, but CBO’s answer is basically: Don’t worry, revenues will increase automatically to cover those costs (for example, employees’ taxable incomes will increase when they lose employer-provided coverage).

In reality, as government assumes a greater share of health-care costs, pressure to cut payments to providers will be enormous. Reduced government reimbursements to providers will cause massive cost-shifting to those remaining in the private health-insurance market. More employees will lose coverage. Before long, we will have what the left has long sought—a single payer health-care system modeled after Medicaid.

The idea that a panel of 15 unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats should be empowered to have the final say over Medicare payments should be alien and offensive to any American who values his own autonomy and his ability to elect and hold accountable his own representatives in government. Why Congress willingly ceded control of Medicare payements to a mere 15-member board in the first place is a puzzle. I thought Congress liked to have the power of the purse!

The House of Representatives’ vote today will be cast as nothing more than political theater — as, indeed, it is. The repeal bill won’t go anywhere — and House Republicans have to know that. But I’m OK with a little political theater from ’em. We need it. As the president and his campaign ramp up their efforts to sell Obamacare as a true achievement, Republicans need to call attention to all that’s wrong with the law.

The Republicans accomplished something else with this: To pay for the repeal of IPAB, they attached medical malpractice reform to the bill. That serves as a fresh reminder that Obamacare does nothing to address medical malpractice even though unwarranted lawsuits against doctors drive health care costs up unnecessarily. The more we learn about Obamacare, the more it becomes apparent that it was about neither cost nor access — it was about control.