A new government report says the Medicare program is $24.6 trillion in debt. The rate at which this debt is accumulating is increasing, with Maine falling in line as one of the sources. Medicare costs in Maine have been rising by 6.9 percent annually, according to the latest statistics.

If we do nothing to fix Medicare, it will implode. So what should we do? Well, unfortunately that’s already been potentially decided — and the proposed cure may prove worse than the disease.

Last year’s healthcare reform law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, enables the president to appoint 15 people to serve on a new Medicare panel called the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). President Barack Obama strongly supports this new panel despite its many shortfalls.

Starting in 2014, the panel will make recommendations such that Medicare hits pre-determined spending targets. IPAB’s recommendations automatically become law without congressional input and hardly any congressional oversight. More disturbing is that there is no legal or administrative recourse to challenge IPAB’s decisions.

As IPAB makes more and more cuts, under a mandate to save money, these decisions will directly cut payments for services provided to Medicare beneficiaries. This could limit the options we and our doctor have when safeguarding our health; furthermore, there is nothing we can do about it — no appeals or a higher authority to help protect us or our loved ones.

Why should Congress abdicate its responsibility to unaccountable bureaucrats? Medicare is in trouble, but it won’t be saved by eliminating choices for doctors and patients.

Douglas J. Jorgensen

Manchester

Past president

Maine Osteopathic Association