Mandatory Medicare Cuts Loom Making Care for Beneficiaries More Difficult

Repealing an unelected, unaccountable federal bureaucratic panel – which could institute drastic, arbitrary Medicare cuts this spring – is a priority for Colorado Medicare beneficiaries including seniors and people with disabilities.   Despite the sharp partisan divide in Washington over the shape of healthcare policy, eliminating this panel is a focus of emerging agreement among Democrats and Republicans.

Often referred to as the “death panel,” the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), created as part of Obamacare,  is charged with making cuts to Medicare once overall spending on the federal healthcare program reaches a trigger point.   IPAB operates outside the normal regulatory process which allows for public scrutiny and its actions aren’t subject to judicial review.

What’s worse is that Congress can’t override IPAB’s cuts without a supermajority vote.  And even if they can achieve that level of bipartisan action, the law states they would have to replace those cuts with other cuts that meet the terms of the IPAB law.

Action in Congress is urgent because the IPAB trigger could be reached imminently – perhaps before the end of May, 2017.   It’s the biggest threat to the overall health of Medicare in decades.

Medicare beneficiaries and senior advocates in Colorado should be aware of the damage that this panel could do to their access to healthcare.  Today, even before any IPAB cuts are instituted, Medicare doctors are already reimbursed at levels well below that of private insurance.   Reducing those reimbursements even further will most likely force more doctors to stop accepting Medicare patients, already a challenge for beneficiaries.

In addition, the cuts would limit seniors’ access to innovative, cutting edge treatments. Overall, the goal of IPAB is to pay providers such as home care agencies, nursing homes, Medicare Advantage, and prescription drug plans less money.  Less money to providers usually results in fewer providers being willing to service Medicare beneficiaries.

IPAB has political support from both parties.  Medicare beneficiaries are urged to contact the Colorado Congressional delegation to urge their support to end IPAB.

For more information on how to contact your congressional representatives and senators, call 303-333-3482.

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About the Author

Eileen Doherty

Eileen Doherty, MS has been the Executive Director of the Colorado Gerontological Society since 1982. She has more than 40 years of experience in education and training, advocacy, clinical practice, and research in the field of gerontology. She is an adjunct instructor at Fort Hays State University teaching non-profit management. She can be reached at 303-333-3482 or at doherty001@att.net.