If Mitt Romney was able to prove anything in Wednesday night’s debate, it is that he’s willing to stretch the truth to almost unbelievable lengths in order to put some distance between President Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act and the almost identical plan that Mr Romney passed as the Governor of Massachusetts in 2006.
In the first lack-lustre debate between America’s two aspiring leaders, Mr Romney firmly asserted that Barack Obama’s health care plan “puts in place an unelected board that’s going to tell people ultimately what kind of treatments they can have”; however, this trivial assessment is anything but accurate.
In fact, the “unelected board” to which Romney referred is the Independent Payment Advisory Board – a speculative panel of health experts that would be given the power to force additional cuts in Medicare subsequent to the plausible inability of Congress to prevent costs from rising beyond a certain threshold. Unfortunately, Mr Romney apparently failed to grasp the focal point of the Advisory Board’s directive – yet that certainly didn’t stop him from attempting to drive his misguided argument home. When asked just moments later what he would do if ‘Obamacare’ was successfully repealed, Romney instead chose to continue attacking the Affordable Healthcare Act’s advisory board.
“Let — well, actually — actually it’s — it’s — it’s a lengthy description, but … let’s come back to something the president — I agree on, which is the — the key task we have in health care is to get the costs down so it’s more affordable for families,” Romney said. “And then he has as a model for doing that a board of people at the government, an unelected board, appointed board, who are going to decide what kind of treatment you ought to have.”
“No, it isn’t,” President Obama interjected. “This board that we’re talking about can’t make decisions about what treatments are given. That’s explicitly prohibited in the law.”
Barack Obama certainly cherry-picked a few statistics of his own in Wednesday night’s debate, but at least his campaign had done enough homework in order to find at least some truth hidden within his more misleading claims – meanwhile, Mitt Romney’s camp would have done well to actually read the Affordable Health Care Act before attempting to discredit it.
In fact, the wording within Mr Obama’s healthcare plan explicitly prohibits this Independent Payment Advisory Board from rationing care, shifting costs to retirees, restricting benefits or raising the Medicare eligibility age. As a result, it is an utter fabrication to assert that the board has the power to tell doctors what treatments they can and can’t prescribe. In affect, Mr Romney’s argument appears to be a regurgitation of Sarah Palin’s laughable allegation that Obamacare would effectively hire “death panels” to ration out care as it saw fit.
To Mr Romney’s credit, he was absolutely correct in his assumption that members of this board are unelected; however, the appointment of these yet-to-be-named individuals will ultimately need to be confirmed by a vote in the Senate. Assuming that Mitt Romney’s criticism is consistent with regards to such a system of appointment, logic dictates that he must also take great issue with the unelected decision-making board that’s housed in the Supreme Court building; however, Wednesday night’s debate predictably failed to cover such ground.
On a final note, it should also be taken into account that health care inflation in the United States has been quite low for the past several years – as a result, experts have suggested that any major cuts to Medicare made by the President’s currently non-existing Independent Payment Advisory Board are unlikely to occur well into the next 8-10 years. As a result, it’s fair to say that this board will not affect Medicare in the near future, is fairly appointed and cannot dictate how doctors must treat their patients – or rather, the Independent Payment Advisory Board is in absolutely no way similar to the panel in which Mr Romney perceives.
The next debate is on 16 October – which gives Mitt Romney almost two weeks to get his hands on an official copy of the President’s Affordable Healthcare Act and learn the facts about the policies he’s attacking. With any luck, he will.