KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Trouble Spot In Fiscal Talks: The Down Payment

Although there appears to be general agreement about tax code and entitlement changes that would begin next year and tally more than $1 trillion over 10 years, the initial installment of deficit reduction has become a sticking point between the White House and GOP leaders. Meanwhile, the Washington Post checks the facts on entitlement "spending cuts."

The New York Times: Initial Deficit Cuts Are Sticking Point In Negotiations
For all the growing angst over the state of negotiations to head off a fiscal crisis in January, the parties are farthest apart on a relatively small part of the overall deficit reduction program — the down payment. President Obama and the House speaker, John A. Boehner, are in general agreement that the relevant Congressional committees must sit down next year and work out changes to the tax code and entitlement programs to save well more than $1 trillion over the next decade. But before that work begins, both men want Congress to approve a first installment on deficit reduction in the coming weeks (Weisman, 12/3).

The Washington Post's The Fact Checker: Geithner's Fuzzy Math On Entitlement 'Spending Cuts'
Eager to rebut Republican claims that the administration was not serious about reining in entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, Geithner insisted the administration did have "a detailed plan of spending cuts," totaling $600 billion, in what he described as "mandatory programs" or "entitlement programs." But his language is a bit slippery. Let's explore what's going on (Kessler, 12/4).

Another report explores how changes to Medicare might affect AARP's revenues  -

The Washington Post: AARP Lobbies Against Medicare Changes That Could Hurt Its Bottom Line
As Washington debates whether to cut federal retirement programs as part of a deal to tackle the nation's debt, one of the most powerful advocates for preserving them could have millions of dollars riding on the outcome. AARP, the highly influential lobby for older Americans, is fiercely opposing any Medicare or Social Security cuts and emphasizes that it is fighting for the good of its members. But the proposals for changing Medicare also could affect AARP's bottom line (Markon, 12/3).

News outlets also offer state and local takes on the impact of going over the "cliff" -

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: AARP: Benefit Changes Could Harm New Yorkers
With the "fiscal cliff" looming, AARP is warning that changes being considered for Social Security and Medicare could harm older New Yorkers. The clock is ticking closer to the end-of-year deadline to avert the fiscal cliff, which is a combination of the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts and automatic, across-the-board spending cuts. Some economists say the combination could send the economy back into recession (12/4).

WBUR: Citing Hospital Stay, Menino Weighs In On Fiscal Cliff
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino is weighing in on federal budget negotiations. The mayor has sent a letter (PDF) to President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner urging that federal health research funding be spared any cuts. Menino says his recent hospitalization demonstrates the "importance of funding for health research, training and care": I know a little bit about the importance of funding for health research, training, and care. Boston is home to the #1 medical school in the country and the #1 hospital in the country. Researchers in Boston earn more NIH support than in any other city. Health care companies and institutions employ more people than any other sector. Oh, and there's this: I just spent a month in one of our world-class health care institutions and am writing you from another (WBUR, 12/3).

MPR: The Future Of Social Security And Medicare
Two economists discuss the future of Social Security and Medicare at a forum held November 28, 2012 at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School (MPR, 12/3).

And what about health insurance's role in the tax code? -

NPR: The (Huge And Rarely Discussed) Health Insurance Tax Break
What's the largest tax break in the federal tax code? If you said the mortgage interest deduction, you'd be wrong. The break for charitable giving? Nope. How about capital gains, or state and local taxes? No, and no. Believe it or not, dollar for dollar, the most tax revenue the federal government forgoes every year is from not taxing the value of health insurance that employers provide their workers (Rovner, 12/4).

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