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Jayne Millerick: A Republican advantage emerges on health care

May 30. 2012 11:14PM

In a recent USA Today/Gallup Poll, 76 percent of Americans living in presidential election battleground states like New Hampshire believe that President Obama's individual mandate in his Affordable Health Care Act (aka Obamacare), which requires everyone to buy health insurance, is unconstitutional. This provision of the law is well known, but hidden in the thousands of pages of legislation was another equally concerning and dangerous item: The creation of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB.

Very simply, the mission of IPAB is to reduce Medicare costs by cutting reimbursement rates to doctors and hospitals. Since Medicare already underpays the health care industry, another round of deep cuts to reimbursement payments will undoubtedly push even more physicians and already cash-strapped hospitals to stop accepting Medicare recipients. For rural recipients of Medicare with limited access to health care providers as it is, such as Granite Staters north of Laconia, these cuts could make it difficult if not impossible to get health care. Democrats in Washington do not want to admit it, but this is rationing of care in its most basic form.

The board itself will consist of 15 health care 'experts' appointed by the President. In effect, this means that a handful of unelected bureaucrats will make critical decisions regarding the health care of the tens of millions of Americans who receive Medicare benefits each year. Although the Secretary of Health and Human Services has claimed that the decisions made by IPAB are merely recommendations, it would literally take an act of Congress to strike their directives down. Now when was the last time we saw Congress agree on anything?

Whether Republican or Democrat, most agree that the challenges in health care and Medicare delivery must be addressed. However, the disastrous approach of IPAB is the wrong solution to the problem. We need fundamental health care reform that follows basic economic principles to drive down costs. Cutting reimbursement rates to doctors and hospitals may look good on paper, but in the long run it will severely reduce the supply of health care and only worsen the problem of rising costs.

Democrats in Congress are trying to pass the buck on difficult decisions regarding Medicare costs by delegating away the lawmaking power to a board of unelected bureaucrats. This way, they can take credit for health care reform and spending cuts while shifting away blame for the specific cuts put in place by IPAB.

New Hampshire's own Congressmen Frank Guinta and Charlie Bass, both Republicans, have helped lead a movement in Washington to repeal IPAB. They should be commended. Their Democratic opponents should support them on this issue.

Obamacare will continue to be hotly debated in the fall elections. Because of our state's significance, New Hampshire voters have a role to play in ensuring our voices are heard in opposition to IPAB. Let's shine the light on this provision as another important reason why the law must be repealed.

Jayne Millerick is president of Marcucci Consulting in Bow. She is a former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party.

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