House Republicans need to decide whether or not they want to eliminate Medicare.
Public confusion on their position is understandable. The budget proposed by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan would have ended Medicare in its current form. On the other hand, Republicans were vicious in their attacks on Pres. Barack Obama for allegedly cutting $716 billion from Medicare.
One of the most promising ideas for reducing Medicare costs is the Independent Payment Advisory Board, created by the Affordable Care Act.
The idea behind the board is to control Medicare costs in a nonpolitical way. If Medicare costs rise too quickly, the board would make recommendations on how to cut spending. If Congress disagreed with the recommendations, it would have to override them and propose cuts of its own.
The advantage of the advisory board is that experts are making the cost-cutting proposals, and Congress takes less political heat if benefits need to be reduced. Ryan proposed similar boards in his Patients Choice Act of 2009.
Yet the House of Representatives installed last week already has adopted rules that reject the advisory-board procedures.
If the goal of the House was to preserve Medicare, it would enthusiastically approve cost-containment measures such as the Independent Payment Advisory Board. If, on the other hand, its goal is to kill Medicare, look for it to continue to block measures designed to keep the program solvent.