Carol Shea-Porter - The Truth about the Independent Payment Advisory Board

There are only two months left before voters go to the polls. They will cast their lot with either President BarackObama or with Mitt Romney, and they will also choose a member of Congress who will be in President Obama's party or in Mr. Romney's camp. Money is pouring into both the Presidential races now, and also into the Congressional races across the country, especially swing states like New Hampshire.  While I abhor the amount of money being spent by outside groups, and wish that Congressman Frank Guinta had agreed to sign a statement with me asking that outside groups stay out of our race, I am more concerned about the inaccurate messages that their money might spread across our state’s television sets.

I have listened to the false charge that President Obama and the Congressional Democrats “robbed” $716 billion from Medicare. The press and factcheck.org have done a good job explaining the facts about the $716 billion—how it actually was savings generated by stopping insurance companies who run Medicare Advantage from charging taxpayers 14% more, and by other administrative cost savings. Seniors now realize that not one dollar in benefits will be cut from their Medicare, and they also know that, as former President Clinton said, it was "brassy" of Paul Ryan to accuse Democrats of "robbing" Medicare and then include those savings in his own budget. Case closed.

However, there is a new claim about Medicare, a scary claim that is also false.  I heard our congressman, Frank Guinta, say it to a room full of seniors this week. This new claim insists that that a new board established under the Affordable Care Act, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), will, in Congressman Frank Guinta's words, "make decisions for every Medicare recipient as to change whether, say you need a hip replacement or some sort of surgical procedure." Congressman Frank Guinta went on to say, "We're talking about every single procedure, this board will make those decisions." If that were true, that would be terrifying. Fortunately, it is false, and we need to reassure people that nobody is going to stop their hip replacements.

So, exactly what is the IPAB, as it is commonly called, and what do they do?  The Republicans falsely accuse them of being "bureaucrats." The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities describes it very well. "The board must include physicians and other health professionals, experts in health finance, health services researchers, employers, and representatives of consumers and the elderly. To prevent control by special interests, health care providers may not constitute a majority of the board's membership.”

So, clearly these are not bureaucrats. But Pat Boone and others have misled seniors in political attack ads that are funded by an outside conservative group called 60 Plus Association.

FactCheck.org says that the health care law, "explicitly says that the IPAB's proposals ‘shall not include any recommendation to ration health care, raise revenues or Medicare beneficiary premiums...increase Medicare beneficiary costsharing (including deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments), or otherwise restrict benefits or modify eligibility criteria.’”

This does not stop Republican politicians from shouting the word "rationing," although it is wrong and shameful to mislead seniors who rely on full access to medical treatment to keep them well. It is particularly "brassy,” since Paul Ryan and the Congressional Republicans actually voted to turn Medicare into a voucher program.

Let's let USA Today, a very sensible, right-in-the-middle newspaper, have the final say on the Independent Payment Advisory Board. In a 4/9/12 editorial called "Medicare Cost Panel is Common Sense," it says, "The Medicare board seems like a common-sense mechanism. The reason it engenders such heated opposition is that like the ‘death panels,’ it's a convenient way to scare people into opposing health reform—facts to the contrary."

Don't be fooled by these false claims, or any others. Educate yourself and your neighbors before Election Day. Facts are stubborn things, as we all know, and we should all be armed with the truth if we are going to be fully informed citizens at the polls. Knowledge is power—use it.

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Former Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter represented New Hampshire’s First District from 2007-2011, she is seeking a third term in the November, 2012 election.  She wrote the proposal for and established a non-profit, social service agency, which continues to serve all ages.  She taught politics and history and is a strong supporter of Medicare and Social Security.