KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

With Sequester Day Looming, Politics Become More Entrenched

Some news outlets take a hard look at the impact that health programs would feel if the scheduled cuts go forward.

The New York Times: Budget Impasse Signals A Shift In GOP's Focus
But at the heart of the battle over sequestration — the nearly $1 trillion in budget cuts that are scheduled to begin on Friday and accelerate over the next decade — are fundamental misunderstandings between the two parties over their respective priorities. During the 2011 negotiations to raise the nation's statutory borrowing limit, Mr. Obama wanted an onerous "trigger" to force both sides to reach a compromise on deficit reduction. For Democrats, the bludgeon that would drive them to negotiate changes to entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security would be cuts to domestic programs like child nutrition and national parks. For Republicans, the president wanted automatic tax increases to force a compromise on the broader tax code (Weisman and Parker, 2/24).

The New York Times' Political Memo: A Complex Role For Medicare In The Standoff In Washington
But the politics of one core dispute between Democrats and Republicans — what to do about Medicare — are changing. And some of those changes complicate President Obama's agenda, even as he continues to flex his postelection muscle (Harwood, 2/24).

Los Angeles Times: Neither Side Blinks In Federal Budget Standoff
Now the cuts that both said would never happen are only days away. With some of the largest government programs, including Medicaid and Social Security, fully walled off from the cuts, and Medicare only partially exposed, the reductions in other federal accounts work out to about 13% for defense and 9% for domestic spending for the rest of this year, according to the government's Office of Management and Budget. At first, the public likely will not notice huge changes. Many furlough notices for federal workers take at least 30 days to kick in, for example, and the effect on other programs will vary in timing (Mascaro, 2/23).

The Hill: Health World Braces For Sequester
Every corner of the healthcare world has something — and potentially a lot — to lose from the $85 billion in automatic spending cuts set to hit the government on March 1. Doctors and hospitals say the sequester’s Medicare cuts will cost their industries more than 200,000 jobs just this year (Baker, 2/24).

Medpage Today: Pressure Rising To Avoid Cuts To Health Programs
Pressure is mounting for Washington to find a way to avoid the automatic spending reductions set to begin March 1, with President Barack Obama Tuesday urging Congress to stop the "meat-cleaver approach" that he says will undermine U.S. military strength and "eviscerate job creating investments in education and energy and medical research." But while both Democrats and Republicans say they don't want the billions of dollars in cuts to kick in, there's no agreement on how to stop them. The nation's two major health entitlement programs, Medicare and Medicaid, are protected from the bulk of the cuts which will hit a wide swath of federal discretionary spending. Other government programs, including health-related programs, such as medical research, mental health treatment and approvals for new drugs, face reductions of 5 percent or more, according to the Congressional Budget Office (2/22).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: 2 Hill Panels Examining Changes To Medicare
With $85 billion in automatic federal spending cuts set to take effect on Friday and predictions of economic disruption, much of official Washington is focused on the "blame game." Publicly, there has been no sign that Congress or administration officials have made any progress on averting these cuts or finding common ground on tackling the country's fiscal problems (Carey, 2/25).

Reuters: Latest Simpson-Bowles Health Plan Stirs Worry But Lacks Detail
A new bipartisan deficit-reduction plan to slash a massive $600 billion from U.S. healthcare spending over two decades has policy experts scratching their heads over how such an ambitious target can be reached. Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan Simpson have yet to declare what they would do to wring savings from Medicare, Medicaid and other programs, according to analysts who provide the two deficit hawks with their facts and figures (Morgan, 2/24).

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