KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Fiscal Deal Political Fallout Will Likely Shape Future Medicare, Entitlement Spending Battles

News outlets continue to analyze how the fiscal deal will set the table for future deficit debates and when some of the difficult spending issues could again take center stage.

The Wall Street Journal: Deal Fails To Satisfy Liberal Democrats
A deal to avert the fiscal cliff and raise taxes on the wealthy left a sour aftertaste among some liberals who believe President Barack Obama wasted his political leverage by settling for a pared-down deal. … One of those showdowns is sure to include a debate over changes to entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Social Security. That has already bred tension in the Democratic ranks. Groups such as Health Care for America Now vow to oppose any cuts that would affect beneficiaries, whereas the president and other congressional Democrats have shown some willingness to make changes that would affect recipients (Murray, 1/2).

The Associated Press: 'Fiscal Cliff' Deal Leaves Lots Of Issues Dangling
As larger and larger numbers of baby boomers receive retirement benefits in coming years, the strain on the budget will be unsustainable. [President] Obama says Medicare's climbing costs must be addressed to fix this. Republicans want to rein in Medicare, Social Security and other entitlement programs more sharply. Many Democratic lawmakers object. And tampering with programs so popular with voters is never easy (Cass, 1/3).

The Wall Street Journal: Fresh Budget Fights Brewing
Republicans say any further deficit reduction or legislation to avoid across-the-board spending cuts should come from reducing spending. President Obama and many Democrats advocate a combination of tax increases and spending cuts. The most serious skirmish will arrive toward the end of February, when the U.S. Treasury is expected to be unable to pay all the government's bills unless Congress boosts the federal borrowing limit (Paletta, 1/3).

The New York Times: Lawmakers Gird For Next Fiscal Clash, On The Debt Ceiling
Smarting from the president's victory on taxes over the New Year's holiday, Republicans in Congress are betting that their refusal to raise the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling will force Mr. Obama to the bargaining table on spending cuts and issues like changes in Medicare and Social Security (Shear and Calmes, 1/2).

Reuters: Bigger Fights Loom After 'Fiscal Cliff' Deal
President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans face even bigger budget battles in the next two months after a hard-fought "fiscal cliff" deal narrowly averted devastating tax increases and spending cuts. The agreement, approved late on Tuesday by the Republican-led House of Representatives and signed by Obama on Wednesday, was a victory for the president, who had won re-election in November on a promise to address budget woes, partly by raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans. But it set up potentially bruising showdowns over the next two months on spending cuts and an increase in the nation's limit on borrowing. ... The debate over "entitlement" programs is also bound to be difficult. Republicans will be pushing for significant cuts in government healthcare programs like Medicare and Medicaid for retirees and the poor, which are the biggest drivers of federal debt (Ferraro and Whitesides, 1/3).

Politico: Mitch McConnell Defends 'Imperfect' Deal
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says he supported the fiscal cliff bill as an "imperfect solution" because he didn't want taxes increases on nearly every American — but now it's all about cutting spending. ... (In an op-ed on Yahoo, he) continued: "We simply cannot increase the nation’s borrowing limit without committing to long overdue reforms to spending programs that are the very cause of our debt."

CNN: McConnell: Debt Debate 'Starts Today'
Hours after Congress sent a bill for the president's signature to avoid the fiscal cliff, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is already gearing up for the next showdown. The Kentucky Republican wrote in an op-ed that President Barack Obama should be prepared to "have a fight" over government spending and the debt limit in the coming weeks, adding that the tax debate is now a thing of the past with the new legislation (Killough, 1/3).

The New York Times: Tax Deal Shows Possible Path Around House GOP In Fiscal Fights To Come
With the contentious 112th Congress coming to a close, the talks between the White House, Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats that secured a path around a looming fiscal crisis on Tuesday may point the way forward for President Obama as he tries to navigate his second term around House Republicans intent on blocking his agenda in the 113th. … A senior Democrat said that game plan would start in the coming weeks, when Mr. Obama addresses his agenda in his State of the Union address and lays out his budget for the 2014 fiscal year, due in early February. That opening bid should restart talks with Congress on an overarching agreement that would lock in deficit reduction through additional revenue, changes to entitlement programs and more spending cuts, to be worked out by the relevant committees in Congress (Weisman, 1/2).

Los Angeles Times: News Analysis: Parties' Role Reversal Complicates Spending Debates
At its core, the debate over the size of government and how to pay for it pits the interests of the huge baby boom generation, now mostly in their 50s and 60s, against the needs of the even larger cohort in their teens and 20s. With limited government money to spend, how much should go to paying medical bills for retirees versus subsidizing college loans, job training and healthcare for young families with children? As they grapple with that, the party of small government increasingly relies on the votes of people dependent on entitlement spending. And the party that created the massive government programs for retirees has more and more become the political home of the young (Lauter, 1/2).

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