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Chances are, you've never heard of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), but this powerful panel can make sweeping cuts to Medicare spending that can negatively affect patient access to medicines they need. This unelected board is designed solely to cut spending, not to reform the critical Medicare program, and the board is not required to give the public a formal opportunity to comment on or challenge IPAB proposals before they become law. IPAB could limit access to innovative treatments, it has insufficient oversight, and is unable to tackle the real problems or provide solutions needed to make Medicare financially stable. As the future of the Affordable Care Act is being debated, now is the time to speak out about the dangers of the IPAB. The U.S. House of Representatives has already voted to repeal IPAB. Now, let's give patients a voice, and tell the U.S. Senate to reject IPAB.

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What is IPAB?

The Independent Payment Advisory Board was set up as part of the Affordable Care Act. Its intended purpose is to help curb Medicare spending. Every year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) sets a target growth rate for Medicare spending, and when Medicare spending meets or exceeds that target growth rate, IPAB is activated. When IPAB is activated, an unelected board appointed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or the HHS itself, looks for areas to cut Medicare spending. IPAB then presents the suggested cuts to Congress where it is either rejected, edited, or approved. If Congress does not act swiftly enough, however, IPAB's suggestions are automatically implemented.

Why Is IPAB Bad for Patients?

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IPAB is dangerous for a variety of reasons, but the most important one being that IPAB focuses on short-term spending cuts without looking at the long-term value of new treatments. This means that new, high-value scientific advancements may be unnecessarily penalized by IPAB cuts, even though such treatments are in demand by doctors and patients, and may also reduce costs in the long run. IPAB doesn't consider the value of medicines over time – just their short term costs or impacts.

IPAB is also bad for patients because it doesn't take their needs into account due to a lack of formal opportunities for the public to comment on or challenge the IPAB's proposals. IPAB's blunt cuts could affect patients and their treatment options, and it's critical that patients have a voice in how the government administers their healthcare.

Furthermore, IPAB's focus on short term spending cuts, while ignoring long-term reform means that IPAB will not help to make Medicare more sustainable for future generations.

What Can I Do?

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Luckily, we have not had to worry yet about IPAB because Medicare spending has been efficient and controlled. However, as the future of the Affordable Care Act is being debated, now is the perfect opportunity to act and tell the Senate to repeal IPAB. It's not too late to ensure patients are spared the potential harm of short-sighted decision-making by IPAB. Together, we can give patients a voice in Washington that might go unheard. Send a message to your Senators today!