Saturday, October 25th, 2014
Pants on Fire!
60 Plus Association
An independent payment advisory board created by in the health care reform law is "like a Medicare IRS with the power to cut Medicare in order to pay for new government programs."

60 Plus Association on Monday, November 7th, 2011 in a television commercial

60 Plus Association, with spokesman Pat Boone, says the IPAB is like "a Medicare IRS"

Pat Boone serves as spokesman in this ad from the 60 Plus Association that blasts health care reform and urges voters to contact Sen. Sherrod Brown.

Clean-cut 1950s songster Pat Boone, who grew famous by recording cover versions of tunes like ""Tutti Frutti," "Long Tall Sally," and "Ain’t That a Shame," has been recycling old material again on television in Ohio.

On Nov. 9, the conservative senior citizens’ group 60 Plus announced it was launching a $750,000 television ad campaign featuring Boone to target Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown.

The ad, broadcast statewide, made a series of claims about last year’s health care law, including one that takes aim at the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which the law created to suggest ways to limit Medicare’s spending growth.

The IPAB, it says, is "a Medicare IRS with the power to cut Medicare to pay for new government programs."

The group behind the ad is so taken with the Medicare-IRS analogy that it has established a website devoted to that theme which claims IPAB is  "in effect, a kind of Medicare IRS that will cut payment rates to doctors and nursing homes."

PolitiFact has already ruled on some other claims in the ad. We thought this one was worth a look, too.

For starters, it’s useful to touch on some of those earlier claims.

PolitiFact has repeatedly examined the claim that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will cut $500 billion from Medicare and rated it Mostly False. A review of the claim from an earlier 60 Plus ad noted, "the law does not take $500 billion out of the current Medicare budget. Rather, it attempts to slow the program’s future growth, curtailing just over $500 billion in future spending over the next 10 years. Medicare spending will still increase - the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects Medicare spending will reach $929 billion in 2020, up from $499 billion in actual spending in 2009."

PolitiFact has repeatedly rated past claims that IPAB has the power to ration care or deny specific treatments to patients False. A PolitiFact examination of a claim by presidential candidate Michele Bachmann noted IPAB is forbidden from submitting "any recommendation to ration health care," as Section 3403 of the health care law states.

That’s significant given the claim in the new 60 Plus ad that the IPAD has "the power to cut Medicare."

If growth in Medicare spending is projected to exceed certain targets, IPAB must come up with plans to slow that increase, but it can only suggest changes to Medicare.  If Congress does not act on its recommendations within a set time frame, those recommendations are automatically implemented. But the decision is in the hands of Congress. The law permits Congress to come up with equal cost reductions of its own, or vote to disregard the recommendations outright by a three-fifths majority.

"The IPAB is specifically forbidden from making any recommendations that would ration care, reduce benefits, raise premiums or cost-sharing or alter eligibility for Medicare," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told the House Energy and Commerce Committee this July. "And all final decisions remain in the hands of Congress. If Medicare costs are rising at an unsustainable rate, it’s Congress’s choice whether to accept those recommendations or come up with recommendations of its own to put Medicare spending on a stable, sustainable path."

PolitFact Ohio was puzzled by the ad’s comparison of IPAB to the Internal Revenue Service. IPAB is a 15-member board that’s supposed to suggest ways to reduce growth in Medicare spending. IRS is a mammoth government agency that collects taxes, enforces the tax laws set by Congress, and helps taxpayers understand and comply with those laws. So we asked 60 Plus spokesman Gerry Scimeca to explain the similarities.

Scimeca said that both groups are intimidating bureaucracies that operate in secret and make decisions that dramatically affect the lives of average Americans.

"IPAB will unilaterally render a sentence affecting all seniors on Medicare, impacting what remedies are available to seniors in need of health care, and giving bureaucrats immense power over available remedies and their costs," Scimeca said in an email. "Like the IRS, IPAB will operate in secret, will have vast powers to reach into our lives, and will have the final, irrefutable say on Medicare policy."

But that description simply is not accurate.

The IPAB appointments will be done in public. Members will be chosen by the president, with confirmation from the Senate. It would not have the power to issue edicts. Rather, it can only make recommendations. That those findings can be overruled by Congress hardly makes its rulings "unilateral" or "final," as Scimeca says.

The functions of IRS and IPAB are entirely unrelated. Some taxpayers may consider the IRS to be scary and 60 Plus may be scared by IPAB. But that does not make IPAB board a "Medicare IRS."

In the late 1950s, Elvis Presley, whose repertoire included the hit "Burning Love," eclipsed Boone in popularity. Boone’s website proudly notes that Presley once opened at one of Boone’s concerts.

"Thank God I had a couple of hit records then and I was the star that night. I never followed Elvis again!" Boone says on the website.

If he were the speaker here, rather than just the spokesman, he’d be following Elvis’ "Burning Love" with his own fiery song, "Burning Pants."

The claim by 60 Plus Association is not only inaccurate, it’s ridiculous. We rate it Pants on Fire.