KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Commission On Debt Will Focus On Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security

Lawmakers are prepping for a battle over the role of government in entitlements such as Medicare and Medicaid as a the Commission on Fiscal Responsbility and Reform prepares to begin work Tuesday, The Washington Post reports. "[The commission] will mark the beginning of a national conversation about the role of government in American society. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid - popular programs that guarantee income support and universal health coverage to people older than 65 - are growing faster than tax revenue as medical costs rise and the population ages. In the coming decades, the three programs are forecast to dwarf all other spending and force the Treasury to borrow to keep them afloat." The Post reports that little attention was paid to the spending in those programs until the recession, when tax collections took a hit (Montgomery, 4/27).

The Hill: "A liberal lawmaker ... warned its Republican co-chairman against relying on cuts to seniors' entitlement benefits to craft a plan to rein in the deficit." But "soon after they were named to the panel in February, [Republican co-chairman and former Sen. Alan] Simpson told PBS that the country 'is going to the bowwows unless we deal with the entitlements, Social Security and Medicare.'"

Both Social Security and Medicare are growing. "'While Social Security is the largest entitlement program, it's not growing as quickly as Medicare, said former Rep. Barbara Kennelly (D-Conn.)." She is now the president of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. "'We hope the commission will focus on fixing the cost of deficits rather than reaching for the largest pot of money for its solution,' she said in a conference call" (Alarkon, 4/26).

The Fiscal Times has a guide to understanding the proceedings of the commission (Andrews, 4/27).

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