KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Plans For Medicare, Deficit Reduction Continue To Be Political Flashpoints

President Barack Obama will welcome Democratic congressional leaders to the White House this week to discuss the continuing budget debate. Though the bipartisan deficit-reduction efforts led by Vice President Joe Biden focus on less politically charged issues, Obama's calls for long-term adjustments  - including changes to Medicare and Medicaid - have left some Democrats nervous. Meanwhile, some Republicans have offered a budget vision of their own, which takes a very different approach to Medicare. Also, the Heritage Foundation has unveiled a plan of its own.

The Associated Press: Obama Focusing On Debt In Meeting With Democrats
The president was to host Senate Democrats at the White House on Wednesday and Senate Republicans on Thursday. The meetings come as Vice President Joe Biden leads bipartisan efforts to identify some of the less politically explosive areas of the budget that could be reduced as a first installment in the effort to contain the debt. Obama has been calling for long-term deficit reduction that blends both tax increases and changes to massive government health programs such as Medicare for older adults and Medicaid for the poor. Some Democrats are anxious for Obama to detail his proposals, worried that he might cut too deeply into venerable Democratic initiatives. Meanwhile, Republicans have proposed restructuring Medicare and Medicaid but have rejected any tax increases (Kuhnhenn, 5/11).

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Heritage Foundation Takes Ryan Plan A Step Further
If you thought House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan's plan to revamp the federal budget didn't go far enough, try this: The Heritage Foundation weighed in Tuesday with a plan the group's economists said would balance the budget and lower the jobless rate to 5.2% within a decade (Boles, 5/10).

Politico: GOPers: Outspend Dems On Medicare
Senate tea partiers are lining up behind a novel Medicare proposal: Outspend President Barack Obama. Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey on Tuesday rolled out a budget blueprint with Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), the chamber's de facto tea party ring leader, and freshmen GOP Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Mike Lee of Utah and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.  …  The Toomey plan would spend more on Medicare by permanently reforming the "sustainable growth rate" - the formula that keeps requiring Congress to pass "doc fixes" to prevent big cuts in payments to physicians. Changing the formula would add $300 billion to Medicare's baseline over 10 years (Wong, 5/10).

The Hill: Conservative Group Indicates Disappointment In Senate GOP Budget
A new budget from Republican senators would balance the budget in less than a decade, but one conservative group is signaling its displeasure because it skirts reform to Medicare. Nine GOP senators, led by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) unveiled a budget proposal Tuesday, which would yield a budget surplus by 2021 without raising taxes by making major spending cuts. However, it would not make major changes to big entitlement programs, even as its backers acknowledged they would need to be addressed over the long term (Schroeder, 5/10). 

The Hill: DCCC Launches 'Don't End Medicare' Website
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee [DCCC] on Tuesday launched a new "action center" website,, to help "grassroots Democrats to hold House Republicans accountable for voting to end Medicare," according to a statement. The site offers a list of upcoming town-hall meetings hosted by House Republicans. It also provides directions to write to GOP lawmakers, or use social media, to voice opposition to the plan by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) (Strauss, 5/10). 

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