KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Plans, Partisan Rhetoric Fly In Countdown To March 1 Cuts

News outlets report how spending reductions will impact health care programs. Meanwhile, in hopes of creating momentum toward a compromise, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles on Tuesday unveiled a $2.4 trillion proposal that includes $600 billion in spending reductions to health-care programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

The New York Times: With Cutbacks Days Away, Obama Tries To Pressure GOP
Mr. Obama once again finds himself in a budget showdown with the opposing party, and numerous polls show his position to be more popular than Republican calls for spending cuts only, including cuts in Medicare. Mr. Obama and senior aides hardly disguised their sense of political advantage. Still, the president’s leverage might in fact be limited, since by all appearances he seems to want a deal far more than Republicans do. As the leader of the nation, Mr. Obama is eager to see an end to the repeated evidence of Washington dysfunction, or what he referred to again on Tuesday as the cycle of "manufactured crisis." And with his legacy ultimately at stake, he needs to lift the fiscal uncertainty that since 2011 has held down economic growth (Calmes, 2/19).

The Wall Street Journal: Rhetoric Turns Harsh As Budget Cuts Loom
The verbal jabs came after deficit hawks Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles on Tuesday proposed a detailed plan for rewriting the tax code and implementing deep spending cuts, hoping it would be a road map to compromise. The two men served as co-chairmen of the White House's 2010 deficit-reduction panel, which put together a package of tax and spending changes that fell flat after the White House and congressional leaders took a look (Hook and Nelson, 2/20).

Kaiser Health News: Pressure Rising To Avoid Federal Spending Cuts That Will Impact 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" (Carey, 2/20).

NPR: How The Sequester Could Affect Health Care
According to a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee from Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the required cuts "would result in about 3,000 fewer inpatient admissions and 804,000 fewer outpatient visits provided in [Indian Health Service] and tribal hospitals and clinics." Sebelius said the reduced funding would also result in 424,000 fewer HIV tests conducted by grantees of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and "2,100 fewer domestic and foreign facility inspections of firms that manufacture food products to verify that domestic and imported foods meet safety standards" by the Food and Drug Administration (Rovner, 2/19).

The Wall Street Journal: Simpson And Bowles Offer Up Deficit Fix
The new $2.4 trillion Simpson-Bowles proposal would identify $600 billion in spending reductions through changes to health-care programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. That is roughly $200 billion more than the White House has said it is willing to accept. The health-care component is perhaps the most detailed of any part of the package, calling for "improving provider and beneficiary incentives throughout the health care system, reducing provider payments, reforming cost-sharing, increasing premiums for higher earners, adjusting benefits to account for population aging, reducing drug costs, and getting better value for our health care dollars" (Paletta, 2/19).

Los Angeles Times: Bowles, Simpson Unveil Plan To Cut Deal $2.4 Trillion Over 10 Years
Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, who have been pushing for a major deficit reduction plan since co-chairing a bipartisan commission on fiscal reform, released a new proposal Tuesday to cut the nation's debt by $2.4 trillion over the next decade. Called "A Bipartisan Path Forward to Securing America's Future," the plan attempts to avoid the large automatic spending cuts set to hit March 1 while also dealing with long-term debt drivers such as Medicare (Puzzanghera, 2/19).

Modern Healthcare: New Deficit-Reduction Plan Seeks $600B In Healthcare Cuts
The former co-chairmen of the president's bipartisan fiscal commission have introduced a deficit-reduction proposal that calls for an additional $2.4 trillion in savings over 10 years, with roughly a quarter of those savings—or about $600 billion—coming from Medicare and Medicaid. Erskine Bowles, former White House chief of staff in the Clinton administration, and former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) unveiled the framework as a way to show lawmakers that a so-called grand bargain to lower the nation's ballooning deficit is still within reach. Bowles and Simpson indicated that a more detailed plan is expected in the coming weeks to give others both on and off Capitol Hill a chance to comment on the proposal (Zigmond, 2/19).

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