The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

May 9, 2013

GOP boycotts health care advisory board

WASHINGTON (AP) — House and Senate Republican leaders told President Barack Obama Thursday that they will refuse to nominate candidates to serve on an advisory board that is to play a role in holding down Medicare costs under the new health care act.

House Speaker John Boehner, who joined Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell in boycotting the Independent Payment Advisory Board, also said that the House next week will vote again to repeal the health care act. According to a Democratic count, the House has tried some 36 times to repeal all or part of Obama's landmark health care overhaul since it became law in 2010.

The 15-member advisory board, known as IPAB, would have the power to force payment cuts on insurers, drug companies and other service providers if Medicare costs rise beyond certain levels.

The health care law explicitly forbids the board from rationing care, shifting costs to seniors or cutting their benefits, but Republicans have insisted that it will be a vehicle to deny care to seniors. Former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin referred to "death panels" that would allow the government to withhold life-saving care from the elderly while campaigning in 2008.

While Boehner and McConnell did not go that far, they said in their letter to Obama that reduced payments "will force providers to stop seeing Medicare patients" and "this will lead to access problems, waiting lists and denied care for seniors."

Boehner, at a news conference Thursday, said this "is a board with 15 unelected, unaccountable individuals who have the authority to deny seniors access to care. The American people don't want the federal government making decisions that doctors and patients should be making."

The members of the board, to consist of people nominated by both parties, would be subject to Senate confirmation. Economists have predicted that the board's services might not be needed in the near future because Medicare cost increases appear to be manageable.

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