Question: Does the Affordable Care Act (i.e., "Obamacare"), include "death panels"?
Answer:@ If you consider death panels to be people who answer the phone when you doctor calls to find out whether you can have heart bypass surgery at age 70, then no.
Over the weekend, Paul Ryan said that death panels and a group the law did create, the Independent Payment Advisory Board, were the same thing. This board has 15 members, all of whom must be confirmed by the Senate. They are charged with finding ways to keep health care spending in line so that the program doesn't go bankrupt.
The board makes recommendations to Congress, which can accept or reject them. (The suggestions take effect after a certain amount of time if Congress refuses to vote. This is done so that Congress can't just ignore the board.)
The law prohibits the board from rationing care, cutting benefits, changing eligibility or raising Medicare premiums. So the group cannot suggest that everyone over age 75 is no longer eligible for a knee replacement. It may, however, recommend that your surgeon be paid 5 percent less for performing the operation.
(Jeffrey Bruner is the wire chief for the Gannett National Wire Desk in Des Moines.)