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No Medicare cuts from IPAB in 2015

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted May 13, 2013

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As expected, the outside panel charged by Congress with keeping Medicare spending in check will not be required to act for the 2015 program year.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is required to determine annually if the Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board needs to cut costs, starting with 2015. Federal budget authorities do not expect the board’s spending reduction powers to be needed for several years — and such is the case for the first year in which IPAB could have acted.

The projected five-year growth rate is 1.15% per capita between 2011 and 2015, which is below the target of 3.03% set by a formula in the Affordable Care Act. IPAB is required to recommend cuts to program spending, which could include reductions in physician payments when the growth rate exceeds the target, wrote Paul Spitalnic, acting chief actuary of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, in an April 30 memo. Those recommendations would be fast-tracked for congressional consideration and take effect automatically unless lawmakers approved a comparable plan or overrode the IPAB through a three-fifths vote in the Senate.

Calls to take away IPAB’s powers have not subsided, and President Obama has not appointed board members. The American Medical Association and about 500 other organized medicine groups, state associations and other key stakeholders sent members of Congress an April 25 letter advocating for the repeal of the IPAB.

“We are deeply concerned about the impact IPAB will have on patient access to quality health care,” the letter stated. “The bulk of any recommended spending reductions will almost certainly come in the form of payment cuts to Medicare providers. This will affect patient access to care and innovative therapies.”

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