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Death Panels' Should Not Be a Surprise When Government Pays for Health Care

Politics

If government is going to continue to pay for health care entitlements, the question is not whether some people will be denied health care; it is about who makes the decision and how the decision is made.

Emergency Room Patients (AP File)

Recently the debate about “death panels” has been heating up as Republican Congressional leaders express their opposition to implementing the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) by refusing to appoint members to serve on it. The IPAB, which was referred to as a death panel by Republicans during the 2010 Congressional elections, is a committee that was to be created as part of health care reform and consists of 15 full-time members appointed for staggered six-year terms. The IPAB must provide a report to Congress about how to hold Medicare spending within legislated limits. Congress is given a strict timetable within which it must consider the board’s recommendations and either vote to accept them or come up with alternatives that achieve comparable savings. Although the IPAB might not be the best way to do it, as long as the government pays for health care, someone must have the responsibility of making decisions about which health care will not be paid for even in cases where the care might prolong the person’s life.

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