KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Two-Year Medicare ‘Doc Fix’ In President’s Budget

Politico: Previewing Obama's 2012 Budget
Like fresh troops - or cannon-fodder - Barack Obama's 2012 budget lands on Capitol Hill on Monday, and more than any of the president's prior efforts, this one makes choices that help define the man himself. ... The National Institutes of Health will grow by about $1 billion, even as old antipoverty programs and heating assistance are cut (Rogers, 2/13).

The Associated Press: Obama Official Says New Budget Won't Be Pain-Free
Jacob Lew, the president's budget director, said Sunday that the new spending plan for the 2012 budget year beginning Oct. 1 would disprove the notion that "we can do this painlessly ... we are going to make tough choices." ... Lew, appearing on CNN's "State of the Union," rejected criticism that the $1.1 trillion deficit-cutting goal fell far short of the $4 trillion in deficit cuts outlined by the president's own deficit commission in a plan unveiled last December. That proposal would attack the biggest causes of the deficits - spending on the benefit programs Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security - and defense spending. Obama's budget avoided the painful choices put forward by the commission on benefit programs. Lew said it would be a mistake to say the report did not have an impact on the president's proposals" (Crutsinger, 2/13).

The Washington Post: Obama To Propose Spending Cuts In Budget Plan Aimed At Countering Conservatives
The Obama blueprint also seeks to eliminate two budget gimmicks that Congress has long used to mask the true depth of the red ink: His proposal would offset higher Medicare payments to doctors by cutting $62 billion from other areas of federal health spending (Montgomery and Murray, 2/13).

The New York Times: Obama's Budget Seeks Deep Cuts in Domestic Spending
The budget proposal would postpone for two years a scheduled 25 percent cut in the Medicare physician payment formula, known as the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), that's set to go into effect at the end of the year. The $62 billion "doc fix" would be paid for by "changes that squeeze Medicare and Medicaid payments to hospitals and doctors and expand the use of generic drugs in federal health programs (Calmes, 2/12).

The Hill: Healthcare Cuts Proposed To Pay For Two-Year Medicare Fix
Physicians' groups are lobbying for a permanent repeal of the SGR, and it's not clear how they'll respond to a two-year solution. In any event, the proposed offsets are almost certain to attract considerable criticism when the administration releases additional details on Monday. Indeed, the proposed "squeeze" comes at a time when hospitals and doctors' groups are already clamoring for Congress to repeal the healthcare reform law's payment advisory board, which is tasked with recommending future cuts to Medicare payments (Pecquet, 2/12).

Fox News: Republicans, White House Brace for Twin Budget Battles
After some internal wrangling over how much to cut, Republicans late last week said they would propose a full $100 billion in cuts for the rest of the fiscal year. Compared to last year's budget, the savings amount to about $61 billion. Among the programs targeted are health research, foreign aid, the Peace Corps and pre-kindergarten education. "We must reverse this spending binge as quickly as possible," Boehner said in a letter to Obama dated Sunday, casting budget cuts as a booster for the economy (2/13).

Related, earlier KHN story: Heavyweight Budget Fight: Entitlements Vs. The Deficit (Weaver, 2/11)


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