Across New England, tens of thousands of people work in an industry that serves to keep millions healthy, generates high paying jobs and helps to develop life saving medications. But what if decisions that could dramatically affect that industry were to be made by a board of people who had no accountability to the businesses, workers or patients they serve? How could that be allowed to happen?

But that is exactly the scenario that has been set up by the forming of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) in order to oversee costs in Medicare. This board potentially puts the future of the biotech and biopharmaceutical industries at risk.

Established as part of the Affordable Care Act of 2010, the IPAB will have 15 full time members appointed by the President. The board’s directive—-cut costs to Medicare—the federal health care program for seniors.

There’s no doubt that healthcare spending in this country needs to be reigned in.  But putting those decisions in the hands of a board of people whose proposals will automatically become law unless Congress acts, and who will not be subject to oversight from the Federal courts or Congress is not in the best interests of the American people.

The pressure on IPAB to produce results and make cuts every year is certain. This could potentially lead to short-term cuts that don’t look at the big picture of the biopharmaceutical industry. And that should be of worry to people throughout New England.

No region is more tied to the healthcare and biopharmaceutical industry than our six states. Throughout the past decade innovation has flourished here and we continue to make strides every day that grow this industry. From the bio clusters around our great
universities, to initiatives to bring new companies and jobs to each of our states, New England is now the hub of where many new, life saving medications and technologies are being developed.

But decisions by IPAB could halt that.

The threat of cuts to Medicare makes it more difficult for the funding of innovation to continue. Investment and innovation go hand in hand. Developing treatments for chronic conditions can be expensive in the short term, but ultimately lower costs for patient treatment. IPAB is not set up to take that sort of long term thinking into account.  That could lead to a reduction in innovation, care and positive health outcomes for millions of Americans.

People who have no ties or interest in our region and our industry can’t make these types of funding decisions behind closed doors. Congress must take back the decision-making power and oversight of Medicare. The New England delegation must step up and vote to repeal the IPAB legislation.  Doing so will ensure that they are the ones on the front line to protect the health of our seniors, the future of innovation and the biotech and biopharmaceutical industry in our states.

Paul Pescatello, President of CURE (CT United for Research Excellence) and Chairman of NEBA (New England Biotech Association)