"The creation of a five-person Independent Medicare Advisory Council (IMAC), supported by President Obama and included in the latest framework by Senate health care negotiators, worries some policy experts. IMAC, called an independent Medicare commission by the Senate, would be empowered to set Medicare rates and make cuts to the program in a way that works largely outside the legislative process.
"According to a plan circulated by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, Congress would only be able to override IMAC's plans if Congress could submit an alternative plan that would save an 'equivalent amount of budgetary savings.' An earlier draft version of IMAC that did not make the requirements on Congress so stiff to rescind IMAC plans is posted on whitehouse.gov.
"Currently, there is a 17-member Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) that makes recommendations to Congress on how to achieve cost savings, but MedPAC's suggestions are routinely ignored, largely because advocating cuts to Medicare, a popular program with seniors, is considered politically dangerous. IMAC, on the other hand, would not have to get direct consent from Congress in order for its cuts to be implemented."
. . .
"David Merritt, vice president of the Center for Health Transformation, said seniors are 'absolutely alarmed' with this legislation. 'Their support has cratered as they learn more about the Democrats' plans,' he said in an e-mail. 'They know that by setting up new federal panels and agencies that are charged with cutting costs, their benefits, choice and coverage will suffer.'"
Poor seniors. They're at the bottom of the Medicare decision making chain, but it's their lives and health that are at risk.
Governor Palin's "death panel" formulation, rather than fading away, just gets stronger and stronger as details of proposed health care legislation leak out. A five member independent commission to "set Medicare rates and make cuts to the program". Congressional override only if Congress can find an "equivalent amount of budgetary savings." Doesn't sound promising for those on Medicare.
It's common sense that government, which has to pay for things through taxes, is very interested, as President Obama says, in bending the cost curve down. For society at large health care cannot be the number one priority. But for the individual facing a health crisis personally or for his family, there are times when health care has to be the number one priority. You get cancer or your child gets cancer and life is put on hold to treat it. But five member commissions whose job is to cut costs aren't allowed to see it that way.