Legislative Update: June 2015

Legislative Update: June 2015

TSCL Supports Bill To Kill The Medicare Cutting Board

By Jessie Gibbons, Senior Policy Analyst

Should Congress hand over accountability for decisions about Medicare cuts to an unelected board? That’s what lawmakers did in 2010 when they passed the Affordable Care Act. The law included a controversial provision to create a Medicare cost-cutting board, known as the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB).

Here’s how it works: If Medicare spending exceeds certain growth rates, the 15-member board must make recommendations to Congress to rein in spending. If Congress fails to respond by passing cost-cutting measures of their own, the board’s recommendations would be automatically implemented.

Five years after IPAB’s creation, it still has no appointed members and, due to record-low growth in healthcare costs, it hasn’t been triggered to make recommendations to Congress yet. Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, says she doesn’t expect it to be triggered until 2019. But hundreds of lawmakers have serious concerns about the prospect of the board since it would be comprised of unelected and unaccountable appointees. They are hoping to pass legislation that would do away with it by the end of this year.

Recently, three lawmakers – Sen. John Cornyn (TX), Rep. Phil Roe (TN-1), and Rep. Linda Sanchez (CA-38) – introduced the Protecting Seniors’ Access to Medicare Act, and it quickly gained the bipartisan support of more than two hundred legislators. Upon introducing the bill, Rep. Sanchez said, “When it comes down to questions of how to cut costs, we think it’s better left to the Members of Congress who have constituents that we’re answerable to.”

TSCL agrees that the IPAB should be repealed before it is triggered to begin making cost-cutting recommendations to Congress. Even though the Affordable Care Act forbids the board from “rationing” care, cutting Medicare benefits, or increasing premiums, TSCL is concerned that cuts to providers could result in increased costs for beneficiaries or decreased access to quality medical care.

For this reason, TSCL announced its support for the Protecting Seniors’ Access to Medicare Act back in March, and our legislative team has been busy advocating for it on Capitol Hill. The bill’s sponsors expect the House Ways and Means Committee to take it up before the end of the year, and they are hopeful that both chambers will pass it shortly thereafter. For updates, visit www.SeniorsLeague.org and, on our new Facebook page, at www.Facebook.com/SeniorsLeague.