News, Press Release | February 2nd, 2017

Nation’s Healthcare Leaders Endorse Legislation to Repeal Independent Payment Advisory Board

IPAB Expected to be Triggered into Effect in 2017, Making Repeal Action Urgent to Protect Beneficiaries from Harmful Cuts

WASHINGTON – The Healthcare Leadership Council, a coalition of leaders from all sectors of American healthcare, today endorsed legislation that would repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a panel of political appointees that will have power to initiate arbitrary cuts to the Medicare program and undermine healthcare access and quality for millions of seniors and Americans with disabilities.

HLC president Mary R. Grealy said it is vital that Congress act urgently to enact the Protecting Seniors’ Access to Medicare Act, introduced today by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) in the U.S. Senate and Representatives Phil Roe (R-TN) and Raul Ruiz (D-CA) in the U.S. House.  Medicare’s board of trustees has projected that program spending levels will reach a threshold this year that activates IPAB, launching a process that will result in significant spending cuts in 2019.

HLC is one of more than 650 national, state and local organizations representing patients, healthcare providers, employers, veterans, and individuals with disabilities that are urging Congress to repeal IPAB.  More information about this effort can be found at www.protectmydoctorandme.com.

Ms. Grealy said there is bipartisan opposition in Congress and the country to eliminate IPAB because it is a harmful and counterproductive approach to improving Medicare.

“IPAB is designed to make immediate budget cuts within a short timeframe, not to develop thoughtful measures that will enhance the value and sustainability of Medicare or provide better care to the millions who depend on it,” she said.  “Medicare needs well-conceived reforms, not reduced access to physician services or innovative treatments.”

Even if no members are appointed to the 15-person board, the statute creating IPAB stipulates that its authority is transferred to the Secretary of Health and Human Services.  If triggered this year, as expected, the HHS Secretary would announce specific Medicare spending reductions in 2018 that will go into effect in 2019, unless quickly overridden by a supermajority of Congress.

“Medicare already has lower reimbursement rates for healthcare services and treatments than private insurance,” said Ms. Grealy.  “To cut these payments even closer to the bone will inevitably result in beneficiaries having more difficulty finding physicians who can afford to treat them.”

Ms. Grealy said there is reason to be encouraged by the growing bipartisan support for IPAB repeal, also exemplified by the introduction this week of repeal legislation by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee.

She added, “It makes little sense, at a time in which we are making real strides in transitioning Medicare from a fee-for-service entity to a value-focused healthcare payer, to take steps that undermine this progress.  We applaud Senator Cornyn’s, Congressman Roe’s and Congressman Ruiz’s leadership on this issue, and encourage more Senate Democrats to follow Senator Wyden’s lead in protecting Medicare from this avoidable and unnecessary damage.  We will be urging Congress to act without delay before IPAB can do real harm to vulnerable Americans.”