Newtown, CT- November 24, 2016
There’s a reason we may feel ambivalent this Thanksgiving – It’s not just that some of the positive changes that have resulted from the Affordable Care Act may be upended, but mostly because many of us are the ones being carved up. In other words, Thanksgiving is great unless you’re the turkey, and average American families have been turkeys for years, carefully carved up and feasted on by those who, with all impunity, continue to stuff themselves with far more services than they should, starve us with fewer services than we need, or deplume us with outrageous price increases. For many of us turkeys, there is a narrow but important escape path built into the ACA and it’s called the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). The IPAB’s role is to force some level of discipline in Medicare’s budget by enforcing cuts when the overall cost of care exceeds certain thresholds. 2017 would be the first year the IPAB would likely rule to enact some modest cut (a little over $1B). Note that the cuts would be made to Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D. And here’s where the knives are getting sharpened.
What this means to you – When the Medicare Trustees’ Report came out in 2016 noting that IPAB would not be triggered until 2017, drug company stocks surged. So guess who’s walking down the halls of Congress with sharpened knives now that we’re getting closer to 2017? One of many Pharma fronts, the so-called “Healthcare Leadership Council,” has come out with a full-blown attack to repeal the IPAB. Apparently, a small cut in Medicare’s budget, caused by inflation rates that are double or triple a family’s pay increase, is making Pharma and other suppliers (think medical device manufacturers) feel like they’re being placed under the carving knife. This would be funny if the knife was something else than a butter knife, but it isn’t, and the joke is really on all of us real turkeys. $1B in cuts per year for ten years is a drop in the Medicare budget, but it’s real money for all of those whose feathers are being plucked to pay for that budget. Those who attack the IPAB and the importance of reducing Medicare costs to avoid further fleecing the American public have no shame because feeling shame means having a conscious. Instead, these organizations will have stuffed themselves at Thanksgiving on a real turkey while stuffing themselves year round on all us turkeys. Well this election was the beginning of the average working family’s revolt, and it won’t end anytime soon. So feast away you shameless hogs because there’s not much left on our bones, but there’s a lot of meat on yours and we’re coming after it.