Right-Wing Media Return To Fearmongering About Health Care Rationing

Right-wing media have recently revived the falsehood that the Independent Payment Advisory Board created by the health care law will lead to health care rationing. In fact, the law specifically prohibits the Advisory Board from making “any recommendations to ration health care ... or otherwise restrict benefits.”

Right-Wing Media Revive “Rationing,” “Death Panel” Claims

WSJ: Advisory Board Could Lead To “Political Rationing Of Care For The Elderly.” In an April 20 editorial, The Wall Street Journal wrote that the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) created in the health care law could lead to “the political rationing of care for the elderly, as now occurs in Britain, or else the board will drive prices so low that many doctors and hospitals drop out of Medicare.” From The Wall Street Journal:

The Independent Payment Advisory Board was created in the ObamaCare statute, and the President will appoint its experts in 2012 to six-year terms. From then on, look out. Democrats cut $468 billion in Medicare spending by screwing down its price controls and gutting the private insurance options of Medicare Advantage, while also boosting taxes by about $89 billion. This money could have strung along the status quo for a few more years, but Democrats diverted it instead to their new middle-class entitlement, which is like eating all the food left in the life raft.


The honest-to-Peter Orszag liberal theory here is that, among ObamaCare's well-meaning if speculative pilot programs, someone will find a way to deliver better health care at a lower cost. Then the board will decide “what works” and apply it through regulation to all of American medicine. But small-scale initiatives usually succeed because of local health-care conditions and rarely succeed when mass-scaled. Anyhow, decades of government faith in omniscient miracle workers has left Medicare in its present shambles.

As a practical matter, the more likely outcome is the political rationing of care for the elderly, as now occurs in Britain, or else the board will drive prices so low that many doctors and hospitals drop out of Medicare. Either alternative would create the kind of two-tier system dividing the poor and affluent that Democrats claim is Mr. Ryan's mortal sin. [The Wall Street Journal, 4/20/11]

Taranto: Independent Payment Advisory Board Is “Colloquially Known As Death Panels.” In his April 20 Wall Street Journal column, James Taranto wrote:

ObamaCare not only will force people to buy insurance and to subsidize the insurance of others, it ends “Medicare as we know it.” In his speech last week, Obama promised: “We will slow the growth of Medicare costs by strengthening an independent commission of doctors, nurses, medical experts and consumers who will look at all the evidence and recommend the best ways to reduce unnecessary spending while protecting access to the services that seniors need.” He was referring to the Independent Payment Advisory Board, the ObamaCare creation colloquially known as death panels. [The Wall Street Journal, 4/20/11]

Tantaros Fearmongers That Medicare Board Is “Going To Lead To Rationing.” On the April 21 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Fox News contributor Andrea Tantaros stated:

TANTAROS: If I were a senior, I would be extremely disturbed by what the president is proposing. He's actually proposing ... an independent panel -- 15 bureaucrats, 15 government-appointed officials -- this is these “rationing boards” we've heard about, who are going to make decisions about how to limit individual expenditures from Medicare patients. What does that mean? They're going to decide what programs you can have, and what programs you can't, what's going to be the most cost-effective. This going to lead to rationing. Just look at England. It always does. If you start to cut payments to doctors, cut payments to hospitals -- which is what the Obama plan does - eventually, doctors start to not want to treat Medicare patients. It's a very, very scary prospect, what the president's proposing. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/21/11]

Stanley Kurtz: “IPAB Is The Real Death Panel, The True Seat Of Rationing.” In an April 18 National Review Online post, Stanley Kurtz wrote:

They're back. Rationing, death panels, socialism, all those nasty old words that helped bring Republicans victory in 2010, and that came to seem so impolite after November of that year. They're back because of IPAB. Remember that acronym. It [sic] stand for The Independent Payment Advisory Board. IPAB is the real death panel, the true seat of rationing, and the royal road to health-care socialism. President Obama won't admit to any of that, but his speech in response to Paul Ryan's plan did push IPAB out of the shadows and into public view, however briefly.


Rationing, death panels, socialism, and deception. It's all there. When Sarah Palin first raised the “death panel” issue, she was referring to end-of-life counseling. But IPAB is the real death panel (as Palin herself later noted), a body of unelected bureaucrats with the power to cut off care through arbitrary rules based on one-size-fits-all cost calculations, just as in Britain. [NRO, 4/18/11]

In Fact, IPAB Specifically Prohibited From Making “Any Recommendations To Ration Health Care”

Law Specifically Prohibits Advisory Board From Making “Any Recommendations To Ration Health Care ... Or Otherwise Restrict Benefits.” As Media Matters has noted, the health care law specifically prohibits the Independent Payment Advisory Board from making “any recommendations to ration health care ... or otherwise restrict benefits.” [Media Matters, 10/12/10; Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, accessed, 4/21/11]

White House: “IPAB Is Specifically Prohibited By Law From Recommending Any Policies That Ration Care.” In an April 20 blog post on the White House website, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Nancy-Ann DeParle wrote that the "IPAB is specifically prohibited by law from recommending any policies that ration care, raise taxes, increase premiums or cost-sharing, restrict benefits or modify who is eligible for Medicare." [WhiteHouse.gov, 4/20/11]

Kaiser Family Foundation: Board Cannot “Ration Care, Increase Taxes, Change Medicare Benefits Or Eligibility, Increase Beneficiary Premiums And Cost-Sharing Requirement, Or Reduce Low Income Subsidies Under Part D.” From the Kaiser Family Foundation's “Explaining Health Reform: Medicare and the New Independent Payment Advisory Board”:

The Board is prohibited from submitting proposals that would ration care, increase taxes, change Medicare benefits or eligibility, increase beneficiary premiums and cost-sharing requirements, or reduce low-income subsidies under Part D. Prior to 2019, the Board is also prohibited from recommending changes in payments to providers and suppliers that are scheduled to receive a reduction in their payment updates in excess of a reduction due to productivity adjustments, as specified in the health reform law. The law establishes specific rules and deadlines for Congressional consideration of the Board's recommendations, and specific timelines and procedures for Congressional action on alternative proposals to achieve equivalent savings.[Kaiser Family Foundation, Explaining Health Reform: Medicare and the New Independent Payment Advisory Board, 5/10/10]

PolitiFact Named “Death Panels” Its 2009 Lie Of The Year. In December 2009, PolitiFact wrote that "[o]f all the falsehoods and distortions in the political discourse this year, one stood out from the rest. 'Death panels.'" [PolitiFact, 12/18/09]