KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Some Signals Point To New Phase For ‘Super Committee’

Republicans on the panel appear more open to revenue-raising proposals, while Democrats may be more willing to trim health care costs. As discussions continue to surround tax and entitlement questions, the Medicare physician payment fix is one issue on the radar. Doctors groups are also urging the panel to consider limits on medical malpractice suits as a means to achieve health care savings.

Reuters: U.S. Budget Talks Get Down to Taxes, Benefits
Deficit-reduction talks in the U.S. Congress entered a potentially groundbreaking phase on Tuesday with Republicans signaling they could consider some revenue increases in exchange for Democrats embracing health care cuts, sources familiar with the discussions said. "Nearly all the Republican members on the super committee I have spoken to, and frankly the party leaders, have left the door open to revenues," a source with knowledge of the talks told Reuters (10/4).

Politico: Tax, Entitlement Deal Still In Play
If Republicans believe that tax reform will lead to higher revenues, now is the time to lay away a down payment for that future. If Democrats are committed to a long-term fix for Medicare physician payments, then layaway savings could pay for it later (Rogers, 10/4).

The Hill: AMA Wants Super Committee To Limit Malpractice Suits
Doctors groups on Tuesday urged the congressional super committee to reduce the federal deficit through limits on medical malpractice suits. The American Medical Association and 98 other medical groups signed letters to the super committee urging it to adopt tort reform as part of its effort to cut at least $1.2 trillion from the nation's deficit. The AMA said limits on malpractice suits could save the government more than $62 billion over 10 years, citing estimates from the Congressional Budget Office (Baker, 10/4).

Connecticut Mirror: Doctors' Groups Ask Super Committee To Consider Medical Liability Reform
In case the super committee doesn't already have enough on its plate, the Connecticut State Medical Society and other physician groups are asking the congressional deficit-reduction panel to tackle medical liability reform. The so-called super committee is charged with finding at least $1.2 trillion in budgetary savings before Thanksgiving. The 12-member panel is looking at possible changes to the tax code, entitlement programs, and spending cuts-with many political observers doubting their ability to come to an agreement on a package (Shesgreen, 10/4).

Meanwhile, reports indicate that the stopgap funding measure easily cleared by the House foreshadows difficulties for working out a full-year appropriations bill.  

The Wall Street Journal: Short-Term Spending Bill Clears House
Passage of the short-term funding bill sets the stage for debate on a longer-term one to provide funding through the 2012 fiscal year, which began Oct. 1. Leaders of both parties have said they hope to reach agreement on a longer-term measure before Nov. 18, when government funding would otherwise expire under the bill approved Tuesday. House Republicans are angling to spend billions of dollars less than Senate Democrats want on the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, and significantly more on the Pentagon (Boles, 10/5).

Politico: House Easily Clears Latest Stopgap Funding Bill
The stopgap bill — now on the way to the White House — is relatively clean in this regard, but the multiple riders could be a major hurdle still to working out more permanent full year appropriations. For example, a $153.4 billion budget for labor, health and education programs — unveiled by the House GOP last week — is peppered with such riders (Rogers, 10/4).

The Associated Press: House Sends White House a Short-Term Spending Bill
The House passed a spending bill Tuesday to fund the government for six weeks, delaying a series of battles over spending and policy that include everything from labor law and environmental regulations to abortion and the Pentagon budget. The 352-66 vote sent the measure to President Barack Obama in time to avert a government shutdown at midnight. That ended a skirmish over disaster aid that seemed to signal far more trouble ahead as Obama and a bitterly divided Congress begin working on ironing out hundreds of differences, big and small, on a $1 trillion-plus pile of 12 unfinished spending bills (Taylor, 10/4).

The Hill: GOP Worries They'll Have To Accept Massive Spending Measure
Frustrated House Republicans are grappling with the possibility that they will be forced to swallow the kind of massive spending package many of them campaigned against when Democrats were in power. … The prospect of signing off on a bill that could exceed 1,000 pages and appropriate about $1 trillion in federal spending is a sore subject for Republicans, particularly the freshmen who pledged not to vote for legislation too bulky even to read (Berman and Wasson, 10/5).

Politico Pro: Senate Could Drop Insurance Tax In Jobs Bill
A controversial provision to tax some wealthier Americans' employer-backed health coverage could get stripped from President Barack Obama's plan to boost employment and revive the economy. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Senate would vote on the president's jobs bill in the coming weeks, but only after Democrats find new ways to pay for the $447 billion package. "There is a wide range of things we're looking at," Reid said. "Because the only objections I heard from my caucus is dealing with the pay-fors. So we're resolving that issue as we speak." He gave no specifics, but said the president is open to changes (Dobias, 10/4).

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