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Obama faces some Democratic opposition to Medicare plan


An additional Democrat joined Republicans on Friday in calling for the repeal of a critical component of President Obama's health care reforms, signaling that Mr. Obama will have to battle not only Republicans but members of his own party as he attempts to strengthen those reforms as part of his deficit reduction plan.

Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) on Friday released a statement announcing her support for the Medicare Decisions Accountability Act, a Republican bill that repeals the portion of the health reform package that creates the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). Schwartz is the fourth Democrat to come out in support of the legislation, the Hill reports.

The Independent Payment Advisory Board, which is set to take action in 2018, is intended to be an independent, non-partisan commission of doctors and other health experts to oversee the costs of Medicare. The Obama administration has argued that the board will play a critical role in keeping health care costs down. Critics of the new board such as Sarah Palin have said the board will use "'death panel'-like rationing."

In her statement today, Schwartz said she condones repealing the IPAB because it is the role of Congress to determine Medicare policies.

"Abdicating this responsibility, whether to insurance companies or an unelected commission, would undermine our ability to represent the needs of the seniors and disabled in our communities," she said.

The IPAB was not only a significant portion of Mr. Obama's health care reform package, but also is a central part of his new deficit reduction plan, which aims to save $4 trillion over 12 years.

"We will slow the growth of Medicare costs by strengthening an independent commission of doctors, nurses, medical experts and consumers who will look at all the evidence and recommend the best ways to reduce unnecessary spending while protecting access to the services seniors need," Mr. Obama said in a speech Wednesday.

He said that his proposed reforms should save the government $500 billion in Medicare and Medicaid expenses by 2023 and an additional one trillion dollars in the decade after that.

"And if we're wrong, and Medicare costs rise faster than we expect, this approach will give the independent commission the authority to make additional savings by further improving Medicare," Mr. Obama said.

Repealing the creation of the IPAB is just one part of the GOP-led plan to entirely dismantle Mr. Obama's health care reforms, which has already had some success. As part of the 2011 budget deal Mr. Obama agreed to with congressional leaders, Congress eliminated a voucher program created in the health care reform law that was intended to help people purchase affordable coverage in the new exchange systems instead of expensive employer-provided health insurance. The budget agreement also cut $2.2 billion in 2011 funding for health care co-ops.

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