Ever since Sarah Palin’s end-of-life counseling “death panel” remarks exploded into national consciousness in 2009, I have researched the real power Obamacare will have to overrule your doctor’s decisions about what’s best for your heath care.

Forget death panels. Starting in July 2014, if Barack Obama is still president, a 15-member board that he selects with Senate confirmation – the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) – will be in charge of deciding when to reduce government spending per capita (for each person) on health care.

Opponents such as Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., who is also a doctor and the co-chairman of the House GOP Doctors Caucus, know the IPAB will have the authority to reduce Medicare spending if it exceeds the administration’s imposed growth rate on an annual basis.

This “bunch of bureaucrats,” as Gingrey described these health rationers, will have the power to decide whether you can depend on government funds to continue “on dialysis or cancer chemotherapy” (“Obama’s Advisory Board Could Be a Real Killer,” Peter Roff, usnews.com, June 28, 2011).

Another Republican congressman, Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., who was a physician before going into politics, puts it more plainly:

“Basically, there’s a certain amount of money that’s allocated for Medicare spending each year. Once you hit that amount that’s been appropriated,” the Independent Payment Advisory Board “can then decide, not based on quality or need, but based on strictly cost” to stop payment (“‘Real death panels’ set to face heat in Congress, courts,” Matthew Boyle, the Daily Caller, March 22, 2011).

What especially chills me is that not a single member of this health jury will have actually seen the patient, thanks to Obamacare.

At least when the courts have determined the death penalty for a capital crime, the doomed citizen will have previously been able to challenge the sentence. But under Obamacare, it’s as if the citizen whose very life is endangered may be disposed of under the president’s ultimate authority, as if by a pilotless drone. There is no due process in this section of Obamacare, either.

In Coons v. Geithner, a 2010 civil rights complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, attorneys from the libertarian Goldwater Institute are asking that court to declare that “the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (the official, phony name of Obamacare) … violates the United States Constitution” on a number of counts, including the notorious “mandate” that American citizens be forced to buy insurance (from the Coons v. Geithner filing).

In his story for the Daily Caller, Matthew Boyle quoted Diane Cohen, the lead attorney for the Goldwater Institute that is representing the plaintiffs in Coons v. Geithner, who further explained the contorted history of the dreaded IPAB. (Future historians take note – as should you when you vote in the next presidential election):

“‘There was a lot of controversy over it (IPAB) when Obamacare was being considered in Congress by both sides of the aisle,’ Cohen said, referring to more than 50 Democrats who wrote to then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi voicing their opposition to it.

“It was very controversial and made its way into the law just because of the manner in which the whole law was passed to begin with. Even the American Medical Association, who has supported Obamacare for some reason, had come out and opposed the establishment of the Independent Payment Advisory Board.”

And under what kinds of pressure did Obama extinguish certain Democrats’ opposition to the establishment of this historic death board?

My waning respect for the American Medical Association collapsed when it voted to exclude its membership – as IPAB commanded – from deciding what’s best for their patients. Did any members of the AMA resign in protest?

Meanwhile, our Supreme Court believes its eventual ruling on Obamacare is so important that it has scheduled three days of oral arguments on March 26, 27 and 28 (a rare expansion). Many Americans would be eager to be present at the high court via television – some of us just to get a sense of how long we may live. But the justices are sticking to their longtime refusal to allow TV cameras in their courtroom for oral arguments.

Some of them want to retain their anonymity when they move amongst the common people. Would you recognize Justice Anthony Kennedy – often the swing vote on the court – if he were on the same elevator as you?

Others insist that the solemnity of their grave proceedings would be marred by the intrusion of this theatrical distraction. But wouldn’t you like to see Justice Antonin Scalia lashing out at the impenetrable ignorance of certain colleagues?

As I have written, sitting in the privileged press section at the high court, I have learned a great deal about the degree of independence and quality of judiciousness of these nine highly elevated Americans who can impact so many of our lives, often for long periods.

But now, breaking news of an as yet unknown future: The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted today, by a voice vote, to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board. This repeal still has to go before the Rules and Ways and Means Committees, as well as eventually the Senate.

I’ll keep you posted on what happens. The nation’s doctors are also very eager to know.

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