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Tom Feran
By Tom Feran March 19, 2012

Pat Boone says health care advisory board can ration care and deny Medicare treatments

Pat Boone gained fame in the 1950s with covers of tunes like "Tutti Frutti," "Long Tall Sally," and "Ain’t That a Shame."  Now he’s helping the 60 Plus Association, an advocacy group that bills itself as "the conservative alternative" to the AARP,  to recycle material.

Boone is the pitchman in an ad that targets the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, the health reform bill often called Obamacare approved by Congress in 2010. The ad warns seniors of potential dangers in the bill and urges them to call Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

The 60 Plus Association announced it was launching a new campaign on March 12 that would target five Democratic senators, including Brown, on the issue of health care reform.

The centerpiece of the new, $720,000 ad campaign in Ohio, 60 Plus said, is a 60-second spot featuring Boone. In addition to the spot that targets Brown, the campaign also is airing look-alike ads aimed at Sens. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Bill Nelson of Florida, Jon Tester of Montana and Claire McCaskill of Missouri.

If the ad looks familiar, it should. It's the same TV spot, recycling a series of claims about the health care reform law, that was part of a $750,000 campaign that 60 Plus aimed at Brown four months ago.

Since the ad is again airing in Buckeye State, PolitiFact Ohio decided to take a look at another one of its claims: that the independent payment advisory board created by the Affordable Care Act "can ration care and deny certain Medicare treatments."

First though, we’ll touch on some of the ad’s other statements.

In the ad, Boone says that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will cut $500 billion from Medicare. PolitiFact has reviewed that claim several times 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."

Boone also claims in the ad that the law creates "a Medicare IRS with the power to cut Medicare to pay for new government programs." PolitiFact Ohio found that so puzzling and ridiculous that we rated it Pants on Fire.

But what about this claim, that the IPAB "can ration care and deny certain Medicare treatments"?

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act creates the 15-member Independent Payment Advisory Board to suggest ways to limit Medicare’s spending growth. It can be overruled by Congress. Its appointments will be done in public. It will not make decisions on individual cases.

The board can reduce how much the government pays health care providers for services, reduce payments to hospitals with very high rates of readmissions or recommend innovations that cut wasteful spending. It may not raise premiums for Medicare beneficiaries or increase deductibles, co-insurance or co-payments. The IPAB also cannot change who is eligible for Medicare, restrict benefits or make recommendations that would raise revenue.

In the ad, Boone says that the IPAB would "operate in secret, will have vast powers to reach into our lives, and will have the final, irrefutable say on Medicare policy."

Rep. Michelle Bachmann, a Minnesota Republican and former presidential candidate, earned a False rating from PolitiFact when she made some similar claims in a debate in October 2011.

The board's members won’t be "bureaucrats," as the ad states. The health care law requires they will be doctors and medical professionals, economists and health care management experts, and representatives for consumers and seniors.

Boone charges that "this IPAB board can ration care and deny certain Medicare treatments" and that the board decides "whether you get care, such as continuing on dialysis or cancer chemotherapy" and "will make all the major health care decisions for over 300 million Americans."

But the IPAB recommendations would not apply to any particular individual. They would be across-the-board policy recommendations applied to the entire program. Given Boone’s rhetoric, some people could get the wrong impression that the board would review individual patient treatments and deny care. That’s not the case.

Experts agreed that the board has no say in whether any individual receives dialysis, chemotherapy or any other treatment. It is barred by Section 3403 of the health care law from making policy recommendations that would block patients from needed care.

"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 last July.

"And all final decisions remain in the hands of Congress," she said. "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."

That’s not at all what Boone croons in the 60 Plus ad. His claim that IPAB "can ration care and deny certain Medicare treatments" isn’t just wrong. It’s also ridiculous.

To that we can say "Ain’t That a Shame."

On the Truth-O-Meter, the claim rates Pants on Fire.

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Pat Boone says health care advisory board can ration care and deny Medicare treatments

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