U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson says a bill passed by the House last week takes a major step toward addressing concerns about President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act.
The Protecting Access to Health Care Act (PATH) passed the House by a vote of 223-181. The bill includes the repeal of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a government panel that Gibson said "can meet in secrecy" to select health care services for seniors.
Gibson, the Republican from Kinderhook who represents New York's 20th Congressional District, called IPAB one of the worst parts of Obama's health care law. He said in a prepared statement that the panel aims to cut health care costs by denying access to care for seniors.
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"The equivalent of a 'Medical IRS,' IPAB represents a 'government knows best approach' that is rejected by my constituents," Gibson said. "I firmly believe that decisions on what care to provide are best made by seniors, their families, and their physicians - not 15 people in Washington."
Gibson's colleague in the House, Democrat Bill Owens of the 23rd Congressional District, voted against the PATH Act. He said if Republicans had offered up something to replace IPAB with, "then we would have had something to talk about.
"This gets back to the Medicare cost issue again," Owens said in a phone interview. "If you take out that process, given Congress' history with dealing with this, then there really is nothing to help control costs."
The bill also aims to address medical malpractice issues. Gibson said the legislation includes "comprehensive medical liability reform," which Obama has supported in the past.
Gibson noted that 28 states have already enacted reform on their own but that Congress "must act because frivolous lawsuits transcend state boundaries.
"I am confident that, if implemented, this type of reform would reduce costs, work to end the practice of defensive medicine, and increase access to care," he said.
Candidates weigh in
Watertown businessman Matt Doheny, a Republican challenger to Owens in the race for the new 21st Congressional District, said he would have voted for the bill.
"It calls for real reform of medical malpractice liabilities, which will lessen doctors' practice of 'defense medicine' and therefore lower overall costs," he said in an email. "Also, the notion of an Independent Payment Advisory Board made of 15 unelected bureaucrats appointed by Barack Obama to regulate and potentially ration health care and impose price controls is repulsive.
"Senior citizens, who have already paid their dues, deserve better," Doheny added. "I support eliminating this board. Unfortunately, Bill Owens has gone on record supporting this board. That's wrong and our seniors can depend on me to fight to ensure Medicare is fully funded and never rations care."
Kellie Greene, a conservative Republican from Sackets Harbor, used the passage of the PATH Act - and the two-year anniversary of "ObamaCare" - to rip Owens and Democrats for supporting "what has become the most dangerous public policy assault on America's freedom and prosperity in U.S. history."
Greene said in a press release that the Affordable Care Act grants "arbitrary power" to the federal government while raising costs and slashing benefits. She said she is committed to repealing the law and replacing it with "realistic health care solutions that control costs and improve quality by using choice and competition and allows consumers to purchase insurance across state lines.
"We must pass reform that does not assault our common sense, wallets and liberties," Greene said.