The “death panels,” which were such a rallying cry in the nation’s recent health-care reform debate, have morphed into a new hyperbolic chant of “rationing panels.” The Independent Payment Advisory Board, which does not even exist yet, has already been demonized by Republicans and the health-care industry, which is lobbying to have it repealed.

IPAB is empowered to force cuts if costs rise beyond a certain level and Congress does not act to lower those costs. However, IPAB is forbidden by law to ration care, shift costs to retirees, restrict benefits or raise the Medicare eligibility age.

But that hasn’t stopped vigorous Republican opposition. “Senior citizens will lose control over what they actually get in Medicare,” said Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, “because a politically appointed 15-member board that’s unelected and unresponsive to the will of the people called IPAB will make the decisions about what care we get and what care we don’t.”

IPAB became a new bogeyman in the implementation of the health-care reform law after Republican plans to privatize Medicare upset seniors. At a recent meeting of the lobbying group GOP Doctors Caucus, Republican Phil Gingrey suggested that IPAB members would end up with blood on their hands. “Under this IPAB…a bunch of bureaucrats decide whether or not you get care, such as continuing on dialysis or cancer chemotherapy. I’ll guarantee you, when you withdraw that, the patient is going to die.”

Speaking for IPAB, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius called the board a “backstop” and “fail safe” in the event that costs are not controlled. “If Congress is actually paying attention to the bottom line of Medicare, IPAB is irrelevant…and it never triggers in,” she explained.

For more on health-care reform, see:

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