KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Tensions Rise In Bipartisan Debt-Ceiling Negotiations

Both Democrats and Republicans appear to be increasingly entrenched on key issues, including changes to entitlement programs like Medicare. Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office issued a daunting report, warning that the national debt will exceed the size of the national economy by 2021. The document also highlights the enormity of the task of paying off the debt because of, among other reasons, soaring health care costs.

The Wall Street Journal: Bipartisan Debt Talks Grow More Contentious
The bipartisan deficit-reduction talks led by Vice President Joe Biden grew more contentious Wednesday as Democrats and Republicans became increasingly entrenched on key issues, people familiar with the matter said. Republicans are staunchly opposed to raising taxes, something Democrats believe must be part of any deficit-reduction plan. Many Democrats, meanwhile, oppose certain changes to entitlement programs like Medicare, but Republicans say these are the biggest drivers of the deficit and must be tackle (Paletta, 6/23).

Politico: Democrats Fret Over White House Dealmaking
As bipartisan debt limit negotiations between congressional leaders and the White House rev up, a number of Democrats are worried that President Barack Obama will agree to a deal with the GOP that cuts federal spending too deep, undermines the social safety net, slashes entitlement programs and does not include a single dime in tax increases (Sherman and Bresnahan, 6/22).

The Washington Post: Congressional Budget Office Warns Of Debt Explosion
The national debt will exceed the size of the entire U.S. economy by 2021 - and balloon to nearly 200 percent of GDP within 25 years - without dramatic cuts to federal health and retirement programs or steep tax increases, congressional budget analysts said Wednesday. The dire outlook from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office comes as the White House and congressional leaders are locked in negotiations aimed at cutting spending and stabilizing future borrowing. The CBO report highlights the enormity of that task and the immense difficulty of paying off the debt, given an aging population and soaring health care costs (Montgomery, 6/22).

The Associated Press/New York Times: Budget Office Warns About Debt
The national debt is on pace to equal the annual size of the economy within a decade, levels that could provoke a European-style crisis unless policymakers take action on the federal deficit, according to a report by the Congressional Budget Office.  … Those projections are based on the assumption that tax cuts from the Bush administration are extended and that other current policies, like maintaining doctors' fees under Medicare, are continued as well (6/22).

The Washington Post: Federal Reserve, Acknowledging Slowdown, Reins In Forecasts For Economic Growth
The economic recovery is slowing and the outlook for next year has gotten worse, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said Wednesday, backing away from the view that the slowdown of the past few months was merely temporary. … Even as the central bank's leaders lowered their expectations for the days immediately ahead, a different set of government economists offered a dire long-term forecast for the federal government's fiscal health. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the rising cost of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security would, if left unchecked, lead to a national debt twice as big as the economy (Irwin, 6/22).

The Hill: Health Groups Urge Congress To Reject Spending Caps
Overall caps on federal spending would drive million of seniors into poverty and raise health care costs dramatically, according to new data from The Lewin Group. Health care interest groups used the report to urge lawmakers not to include spending caps in a package of spending cuts accompanying an increase in the debt ceiling. AARP, the American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association (AMA) highlighted the group's findings in a letter to members of Congress (Baker, 6/22).

Meanwhile -

The Hill: Lawmakers Arm Themselves With Dueling Medicare Estimates
Republicans on Wednesday latched on to a new estimate of Medicare's unfunded obligations to renew their call for overhauling the entitlement, while Democrats countered that repealing health care reform would only add to the misery. A new memo from the Medicare actuary estimates that the program's unfunded liabilities over 75 years could add up to $36.8 trillion, far more than the more conservative estimate of $24.4 trillion announced last month. Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee immediately began to distribute the new figure, calling it "whopping," (Pecquet, 6/22).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.