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Sebelius: IPAB Will Not Shift Costs or Ration Care

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media, July 15, 2011

The Independent Payment Advisory Board, a controversial body with a $15 million budget but not a single elected member, continues to generate discord in Washington. Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, spent several hours over two days this week defending the board before two House committees.

Mandated by the Affordable Care Act to go into effect by 2014, IPAB has been decried by physicians groups such as the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association.  The board will be a 15-members panel of doctors, nurses, medical experts, and consumers who recommend ways to reduce healthcare spending.

But Republicans and some Democrats support repeal of the board, which will have the power to analyze the drivers of Medicare cost growth and then recommend to Congress policies to reduce that growth. At least one bill, HR 452, has been introduced to repeal the boars.

The two days of testimony before the Republican-led House Budget Committee on Tuesday and health subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday included Sebelius and more than 15 witnesses representing consumer advocates, policy analysts, attorneys and physicians.

The testimony and questions touched on some common themes: the power of the IPAB, the effect of decreased provider payments on patient access, and the definition of rationing. Although the IPAB was the focus of the hearings, the participants often took the opportunity to tout or pan the Republican plan to redesign Medicare.

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