KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

GOP Medicare Message Becomes Mixed In Midst Of Budget Talks

With the debt-ceiling deadline looming and other divisive budget issues on the table, some Republican lawmakers appeared to back away from their plan to "voucherize" Medicare.

The Washington Post: Budget Talks Focus On Common Ground While Medicare Stance Sparks GOP Split
Lawmakers from both parties opened budget talks with the White House on Thursday with a tacit agreement to focus on areas where they might find common ground that could produce significant savings and to postpone consideration of divisive issues such as higher tax rates and a dramatic overhaul of Medicare (Rucker and Montgomery, 5/5).

Los Angeles Times: Seeking Debt Accord, GOP Backs Off Medicare Revamp
As talks begin between Biden and congressional leaders over how to shrink the federal deficit, Republican leaders acknowledge that their plan to privatize Medicare isn't moving forward any time soon (Mascaro and Parsons, 5/5).

The New York Times: GOP Rethinking Bid To Overhaul Medicare Rules
House Republicans signaled Thursday that they were backing away from the centerpiece of their budget plan - a proposal to overhaul Medicare - in a decision that underscored both the difficulties and political perils of addressing the nation's long-term fiscal problems (Hulse and Calmes, 5/5).

Bloomberg: Taxes, Scale Of Spending Cuts Remain Hurdles To U.S. Debt Limit Increase
A fight over taxes and the scale of spending cuts remain the biggest obstacles to a deficit-cutting plan that White House officials and congressional leaders say is necessary for an agreement to raise the U.S. debt ceiling. House Republican leaders said yesterday they would place on hold a plan to privatize Medicare health coverage for the elderly because of political obstacles, and concentrate on finding common ground with President Barack Obama on spending cuts (Dorning and Hirschfeld Davis, 5/6).

The Associated Press: GOP Seeks Common Ground With Obama On Medicare
The top House Republican responsible for Medicare says he's open to other approaches besides privatization to curb the program's costs. Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp of Michigan told reporters Thursday he still supports the GOP plan to replace Medicare with a voucher-like payment for future retirees. But Camp said he's not interested in laying down more political markers and wants solutions President Barack Obama can sign into law (Alonso-Zaldivar, 5/5).

PBS NewsHour: (Video) After Shutdown Showdown Lawmakers Appear 'Prepared To Work Together' On Budget
In Washington, Vice President Biden met with top lawmakers Thursday to begin a new round of high-level budget, deficit and spending negotiations. Jeffrey Brown discusses the looming debt deadline and the issues at play with The Washington Post's Lori Montgomery (5/5).

The Christian Science Monitor: Talks Begin On Deficit Reduction. What Can Be Cut In The Federal Budget?
At present, the words "Medicare" and "common ground" aren't being uttered in the same phrase. But entitlement programs aren't the whole federal budget. So the potential for a deal that puts a considerable dent in future deficits still exists. … The fiscal commission's plan included two things that don't seem likely to emerge as part of a Biden-brokered plan. One is entitlement reforms, where the two sides have sharp differences. The other is tax-revenue increases, something most Republicans refuse to consider. Still, of about $4 trillion in deficit reduction that the fiscal commission called for, about 43 percent could be achieved without changes to health care programs, Social Security, or tax revenues (Trumbull, 5/5).

The Washington Post: GOP Leaders Divided On Prospects For Medicare Deal With Democrats
Heading into key debt talks with the White House, congressional Republicans publicly split Thursday over the prospects for their ambitious proposal to transform Medicare. The division came as two senior Republicans, House Majority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.), entered Blair House Thursday morning for the start of a broad fiscal negotiation with Vice President Biden and Senate Democrats (Rucker, Kane and Montgomery, 5/5).

The Wall Street Journal: Medicare Recedes In Debt Talks
Republicans had hoped changes to Medicare could be part of a sweeping deficit-cutting deal. But just a few weeks after nearly all House Republicans cast politically risky votes for a plan to transform the popular health program, GOP leaders say such a far-reaching proposal isn't likely to advance (Hook and Lee, 5/6).

The Associated Press: House GOP Won't Push Medicare Vouchers
The GOP plan to replace Medicare with vouchers will have to wait, party leaders acknowledged Thursday as lawmakers and the White House bowed to political realities in pursuing a deal to allow more government borrowing in exchange for big spending cuts. Both sides hinted at movement and Vice President Joe Biden reported progress from an initial negotiating session (Taylor and Alonso-Zaldivar, 5/5).

Politico: Medicare Fight Exposes House GOP's Internal Rifts
The House Republican confusion over the party's Medicare stance Thursday underscores two worries for the GOP - an often insecure, rivalrous leadership and a very bright Budget Committee chairman given to jumping ahead of his troops (Rogers, 5/5).

Reuters: House Republicans Back Away On Medicare Overhaul
Camp and Ryan's comments suggest a new pragmatic tone by Republicans in budget negotiations taking place as Congress faces an August 2 deadline for raising the $14.3 trillion U.S. debt ceiling or risk defaulting on its obligations, an outcome that could devastate world financial markets. They are also facing the political reality that the Medicare plan will not pass the Senate and it has become a politically potent weapon for Democrats for the 2012 congressional and presidential election campaigns (Smith and Morgan, 5/5).

NPR's SHOTS Blog: Medicare Shuffle For House Republicans?
"I'm not negotiating with myself here," House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) told frustrated health reporters at a breakfast briefing sponsored by the policy journal Health Affairs Thursday. Camp is nominally in charge of the task of writing major Medicare changes into actual legislative form. When a reporter who wanted to make sure he had "perfect clarity" on the congressman's position on Medicare changes pressed him for details, Camp replied in a moment of levity and candor, "I don't know if that's my goal" (Rovner, 5/5).

CNN: House Republicans Send Mixed Message On Medicare
Leading into the first bipartisan talks on reducing the deficit hosted by Vice President Joe Biden, The Washington Post reported Thursday that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor "… said Republicans recognize they may need to look elsewhere to achieve consensus after President Obama 'excoriated us'" for proposing to transform Medicare. A senior House GOP source told CNN the story caught other House Republican leaders off guard, since it appeared Cantor was taking the GOP Medicare proposal off the table in negotiations before even stepping into the room (Bash and Walsh, 5/5).

Kaiser Health News Video: Key Republicans Signal Flexibility On Ryan Plan For Medicare
In today's Health On The Hill, KHN's Mary Agnes Carey talks with Jackie Judd about Rep. Dave Camp's comments Thursday that signaled flexibility on Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to change Medicare. Camp said he's open to pursuing other approaches to reduce federal Medicare spending to lower the debt, and he called on Democrats to present specifics on how they would cut federal spending (5/5). Read the transcript.

Reuters: U.S. House Committee Not To Move Medicare Plan
U.S. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp said on Thursday his panel has no plans on moving forward on a Republican proposal that would privatize the Medicare health program for future retirees (Smith, 5/5).

Politico: Medicare Reform Is On The Table
House Speaker John Boehner insisted Thursday that the House Republican Medicare and Medicaid reform plans are still "on the table" in the deficit reduction talks with Vice President Joe Biden - even as he acknowledged the "political reality" that Republicans can only do so much when they only control one chamber of Congress. He told reporters that it's "absolutely not" the wrong time to try to move forward on House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's Medicare and Medicaid plans, despite all of the attacks Republicans have faced from Democrats over those plans (Nather, 5/5). 

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