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Aging & Society

Medicare and IPAB: What You Need to Know

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For over 50 years, Medicare has played a crucial role in providing healthcare for America’s senior citizens.

As the country discusses the future of Medicare, it is important to keep in mind the population it serves. In 2016, Medicare provided health coverage to more than 56.8 million Americans, 47.8 million aged 65 and older and 9 million disabled.1

As more and more baby boomers turn 65, that number is predicted to rise.

As Congress debates the future of the Affordable Care Act, many topics affecting Medicare are on the table, with one in particular that can’t be overlooked. Abrupt cuts to Medicare spending may threaten seniors’ timely access to vital treatments and healthcare services.

Chances are, you may never have heard of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (known as IPAB), but this panel has the power to negatively affect the quality of care provided by Medicare.

What is IPAB?
IPAB was set up as part of the Affordable Care Act. Its intended purpose is to curb Medicare spending. Every year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sets a target growth rate for Medicare spending, if and when spending meets or exceeds that rate, IPAB is activated. When IPAB is activated, an unelected board appointed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or the HHS itself, looks for areas to quickly cut Medicare spending. IPAB then presents the suggested cuts to Congress where it is either rejected, edited, or approved. If the Senate does not act swiftly, however, IPAB’s suggestions may automatically be implemented, affecting patient’s immediately.

Why Is IPAB Bad for Patients?
This year the U.S. House of Representatives voted to repeal IPAB – and now it’s up to the U.S. Senate to do the same. IPAB is dangerous for a number of reasons; most importantly it is short-sighted, focusing on immediate spending cuts without looking at long-term solutions. This means that new, high-value scientific advancements may not be accessible to the 56.8 millions of people insured by Medicare, even if such treatments are in demand by doctors and patients, and may even reduce costs in the long run.

What’s more, IPAB doesn’t take patients’ needs into account with no formal opportunities for the public to comment on or challenge proposals.

IPAB’s blunt cuts could affect patients and their treatment options, and it’s critical that patients have a voice in how the government administers their healthcare.

What Can I Do?
Until now, we have not had to worry about IPAB because Medicare spending has been efficient and controlled.  It is encouraging that the House of Representatives already took an important step for patients in voting to repeal IPAB, and now is the time to encourage the U.S. Senate to vote to repeal IPAB, too.

It’s not too late to ensure patients are spared the potential harm of short-sighted decision-making by IPAB. Together, we can give patients a voice in Washington that might go unheard.

Send a message to your Senators today.

1. “Medicare Enrollment Dashboard,” Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS),


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