Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

GUEST COLUMNIST: Independent Payment Advisory Board Won't Improve Delivery of Health Care

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

GUEST COLUMNIST: Independent Payment Advisory Board Won't Improve Delivery of Health Care

Article excerpt

The Alabama Legislature recently passed Medicaid reform and there is an ongoing conversation surrounding Medicare budget negotiations in Washington. First, I would like to congratulate the Legislature for taking an important step forward in the effort to improve the delivery of services and curb the escalating costs of health care in this state.

Second, while looking at the example of Alabama expanding services while cutting costs, I am concerned that the federal government is mistaken in its belief that the Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB, will be a credible means to save money in Medicare while continuing to deliver services to American seniors.

The IPAB, a 15-member board appointed by the president, was designed by President Barack Obama's administration to reduce costs in the Medicare system by capping expenses, and cutting payments to doctors or other health providers. Medicare is for individuals who are 65 years and older, or who qualify with a disability.

While I believe the IPAB approach has numerous flaws, which I will explain, one of the most glaring is the notion that cutting payments to doctors will result in better delivery of services for reduced costs.

According to most experts, cutting payments and reimbursements to health providers will only place further strain on our doctors, which will in turn result in reduced services for patients.

Ask any business owner what would happen if they were to stop getting paid for their services, and the answer will be that the business owner would go out of business. Why would the president think the result would be any different if we were to stop paying doctors who see Medicare recipients?

If the IPAB is allowed to cut payments, the result will be that the few physicians who still see Medicare patients will either stop accepting these patients, or be forced to cut back services. In a situation where a particular doctor's primary clientele are Medicare recipients, the doctor may be forced to go out of business. It's hard to increase the delivery of services if you can't keep the lights on.

Another problem with the IPAB is that it was designed as an independent board accountable to the president -- not Congress. …

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