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Accusations fly over obscure Medicare board

Philadelphia Inquirer/Associated Press, July 18, 2011

So long death panels. Hello "rationing" board. An independent panel authorized by President Barack Obama's healthcare law to control excessive Medicare cost increases is drawing heavy fire from Republicans. Nearly every health industry lobbying group is pushing for its repeal, as are some consumer advocates. GOP lawmakers call it a rationing panel, and at least one has suggested seniors will die from its decisions. But don't look for the Independent Payment Advisory Board to start chopping any time soon. It doesn't exist yet. Known as IPAB, the board may not be appointed for another couple of years, and remains in suspended animation to see if the brouhaha dies down. IPAB has the power to force Medicare cuts if costs go up beyond certain levels and Congress fails to act. Although Medicare's long-term finances are troubled, it's unclear if short-run costs will rise enough over the next decade to trigger the board's intervention. If that happens, the law explicitly forbids IPAB from rationing care, shifting costs to retirees or restricting benefits. Yet the uproar is getting louder.