More Democrats are now supporting repeal of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which was created by the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," to lower the costs of healthcare.
The IPAB is tasked with making recommendations to Congress on how to lower the costs of Medicare if the program costs increase above a certain threshold. Congress would then fast-track approval of the recommendations, or pass legislation that would reduce Medicare costs by the same amount. If Congress were to fail to do either, the recommendations would go into effect.
During debate over passage of the ACA, proponents claimed the law would reduce the deficit, and the IPAB was touted as one of its cost-saving features. (CLASS, another part of the ACA that was supposed to save money, has already been abolished by the Department of Health and Human Services.)
Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin famously referred to the IPAB as a "death panel" when the idea was first proposed during the 2008 presidential election. She claimed the panel would have the authority to choose who would live and who would die by rationing healthcare. Palin was sharply criticized for those remarks.
The IPAB technically has no authority to ration healthcare, but critics argue that by setting payments to doctors it would have the same effect. Some of those current critics are now Democrats who supported or helped pass the law. Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont and chair of the Democratic National Committee, recently echoed Palin's remarks.
"The IPAB is essentially a health-care rationing body," Dean wrote July 29 for The Wall Street Journal. "By setting doctor reimbursement rates for Medicare and determining which procedures and drugs will be covered and at what price, the IPAB will be able to stop certain treatments its members do not favor by simply setting rates to levels where no doctor or hospital will perform them."
Dean is now an adviser to a D.C. lobbying firm that represents some health industry clients. Some groups representing the health care industry, such as the American Medical Association, would also like to see the IPAB repealed.
There are now 22 Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives who have co-sponsored a bill to repeal the IPAB, according to The Hill. And, in the U.S. Senate, Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), who is expected to have a tough reelection fight next year, has also signed onto repeal legislation.