The "Death Panel" Debate Is Back

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 9 2013 12:25 PM

Republicans Heroically Refuse to Appoint "Death Panel" Members

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Tea Party members Judy Burel and Janis Haddon protest during the Obamacare ruling in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on March 27, 2012 in Washington, DC.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Ever the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Republicans have been trying to undo the Independent Payment Advisory Board. In PR terms, it's a cinch—who wants to defend a (death) panel that decides which health care options are affordable enough to be paid for by Medicare? When he was dreaming up the empowered MedPAC that became IPAB, Tom Daschle compared it to the Federal Reserve. The Fed is less popular than ever. Like I said, a cinch.

But it's a really well-executed Republican plot. Initially, Democrats (led by Jay Rockefeller) wanted to create an IPAB structure but keep it to five members, appointed by the executive branch. Negotiations turned it into a 15-member panel with congressional nominations. If you asked any Republican in the last three years whether they'd appoint people to IPAB, they'd tell you "no."

They meant it. Emily Pierce has the letter John Boehner and Mitch McConnell wrote to the president:

We write to respond to your March 29, 2013 letter requesting that we submit the names of individuals to serve on the Individual Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), which was created in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Public Law 111-148).  Because the law will give IPAB’s 15 unelected, unaccountable individuals the ability to deny seniors access to innovative care, we respectfully decline to recommend appointments.
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The rest of the letter is boilerplate about why Republicans opposed and oppose Obamacare because the White House really hadn't heard that before.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.