Democrat disses Obamacare's IPAB and undermines Democratic Medicare claims

I want to underline my Washington Examiner colleague Philip Klein’s blogpost on Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz’s USAToday column opposing the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a major feature of the Obamacare legislation which she otherwise strongly supports.


Schwartz represents the heavily though not overwhelmingly Democratic 13th congressional district of Pennsylvania, which voted 59% for Barack Obama in 2008 and 56% for John Kerry in 2004. The 13th district includes more than half of suburban Montgomery County and most of Northeast Philadelphia; about two-thirds of the votes are cast in Montgomery County and about one-third in Philadelphia County. Its 2000 population was 8% black, 4% Hispanic and 6% Asian, and I suspect it has the highest Jewish percentage of any Pennsylvania district. Schwartz’s professional background is in social work and she served in the heavity Republican Pennsylvania state Senate from 1990 to 2004. In that year 13th district Congressman Joe Hoeffel was the Democratic nominee against Senator Arlen Specter. In the 2004 Democratic primary Schwartz beat Joe Torsella 52%-48% and won the general election 56%-41%. She was reelected by margins of 66%-34% in 2006, 63%-35% in 2008 and 56%-44% (her closest race) in 2010.  Schwartz is evidently regarded with some favor by the Democratic leadership: she was the second ranking Democrat on the Budget Committee in the 111th Congress, behind Chairman John Spratt. After Spratt was defeated and Democrats lost their majority, she did not get the ranking minority position, which went to Chris Van Hollen, presumably out of gratitude for his service during two election cycles as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and out of respect for his articulateness and political skills. But Schwartz remains in the number two position, ahead of many Democrats with more seniority in the House.


What inspired Schwartz’s opposition to IPAB? Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s declarations that Obamacare will turn over Medicare to the tender mercies of IPAB’s 15 appointed and unaccountable members? Kvetching from elderly Jewish constituents? Complaints from the many physicians in the 13th district? Anyway, here’s what she wrote about IPAB:


“. . . . all agree that Medicare costs must be contained and that the payment system is flawed and needs to be replaced. But simply cutting reimbursements is not the answer. IPAB brings unpredictability and uncertainty to providers and has the potential for stifling innovation and collaboration. The threat of reduced payments is the least imaginative option and most unlikely to result in the kind of heath care we know seniors and all Americans deserve. “



As has been widely reported, Republicans are at risk of losing the special election in the 26th congressional district of New York at least in part because Democrats are attacking Ryan’s Medicare plan as “ending Medicare.” Allyson Schwartz’s call for repeal of IPAB the Democrats’ implied policy—just keep Medicare as it is—isn’t going to happen. IPAB is going to change it radically, radically enough that a Democrat high on the Budget Committee with a pretty safe Democratic district is all but calling it a death panel and is calling for its abolition. This is political dynamite, and Republicans should use it to let voters know what the real alternatives for Medicare in the future.

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