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GOP senators present IPAB repeal bill

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Feb. 25, 2013

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Senate Republicans have reintroduced legislation to repeal the Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board.

A bill sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn (R, Texas) and 31 Republican co-sponsors would eliminate a provision in the Affordable Care Act that created the Medicare cost control board. The president has not nominated individuals to the 15-member IPAB, but statutory requirements for the panel will require cuts to Medicare when spending outpaces expenditure targets. The first IPAB-related activities are scheduled to start in 2013.

The Medicare chief actuary first will determine if the program’s per capita spending exceeds target growth rates in April. However, federal officials have estimated that growth rates will be below targets for several years, and IPAB won’t be required to act to restrain spending at least for the next decade.

Similar legislation also has been introduced in the House and has the support of a bipartisan group of more than 120 members of Congress. But the White House and prominent Senate Democrats support IPAB as an innovative group that can keep out-of-control spending in check. The Obama administration had vowed to veto an IPAB-repeal bill that passed the House in 2012 and has thwarted other attempts to weaken the 2010 health system reform law.

The American Medical Association and other organized medicine groups have urged lawmakers to repeal the IPAB because it lacks necessary checks and balances for decisions to alter Medicare payments. Furthermore, the Medicare expenditure targets establish another arbitrary mechanism that could recommend drastic spending cuts that resemble those mandated by the sustainable growth rate formula used to calculate physician payments, they said.

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