Monday, April 16, 2012

Cutting "Death Panels" - A Waste of Political Time?

On Obamacare’s second anniversary, the House of Representatives voted to abolish the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a cost control program that is estimated to save $3 billion from 2018 to 2022. Though the vote wasn’t entirely partisan—seven Democrats voted for it, and 10 Republicans voted against it—the vote was consistent with the House’s recent strict party alignment. Senate Republicans are now pushing for a repeal of the IPAB, though their likelihood of success is much smaller.

Supporters of the repeal worry that the IPAB—better known as Obama’s “death panels,” at least in recent debates—gives too much power to an organization that is not accountable to any constituency. (As it is currently designed, the 15-member independent advisory board’s spending cut recommendations would take effect automatically unless Congress voted to block them.)

Yet it seems somewhat ironic that this cut is coming from Republicans, who have pushed for reduced federal spending in recent months. Are Republicans being hypocritical in voting to repeal an act that would cut health care spending—one of their major desires? Or does this vote merely show that Republicans truly think this board is given too much power—does it represent their true interests?

Moreover, I question why our legislators are even taking up these issues at this moment, when the Supreme Court is reviewing the constitutionality of Obamacare, making many of its programs up in the air, at least for the time being? And what is the political feasibility of repealing the IPAB, even if Supreme Court rules that Obamacare’s mandate is constitutional? Even if the Senate were to approve this abolishment, this Congress has little potential to override a veto, which is almost inevitable if Obama remains in office. Therefore, isn’t the House’s vote simply a waste of political capital? Shouldn’t they be focusing on policies that might actually be implemented?

Am I being too cautionary about what Congress should and should not do? Are House Republicans actually being strategic in passing this bill? What does everyone else think?

1 comment:

  1. Although, I also question the motives of the GOP to repeal the IPAB, I find it telling that the original repeal bill had 20 Democratic co-sponsors. Until medical malpractice reform was tagged on to the bill to help balance the projected cost savings of the IPAB panel, members of both sides of the aisle believed that the IPAB gave too much power to an unelected body that is held unaccountable to the people. So is the GOP (et al) arguing for more government control? Or is this a vie for senior's support? The AARP has publicly stated that they are concerned about what the IPAB will do to medicare costs and treatment quality. Thus, maybe proponents of the IPAB repeal aren't squandering political capital, but are instead thinking strategically towards the 2012 general election by trying to garner a key constituency's vote. However, with the introduction of medical malpractice to the bill (which greatly diminished Democratic support) and the likely roadblock in the Senate, I doubt this bill or this political move will gain much traction in the fall.