KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Parties Still Far Apart As Deficit Panel Eyes Benefits, Taxes

Media outlets report on Capitol Hill reactions to the super committee proposals and counter-proposals that surfaced this week. For instance, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, gave his "most pessimistic" take to date on whether the panel would be able to offer recommendations by Thanksgiving on how to reach the deficit-reduction target.

The Washington Post: Boehner Rejects Democrats' $3 Trillion Deficit Reduction Proposal To 'Super Committee'
Amid a flurry of counter-proposals from the deficit-reduction committee, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday rejected a Democratic offer to slash $3 trillion from future debts because it contained significant tax increases. While GOP negotiators offered a slimmer package of savings with virtually no tax hikes, Boehner said the Democratic request for $1.3 trillion in new tax revenue was a non-starter and gave his most pessimistic outlook to date that the so-called "super committee" would achieve its deficit target by its Thanksgiving deadline (Kane and Helderman, 10/27).

Politico: Parties Still Far Apart On Super Committee Deficit Deal
Rank-and-file Democrats are sniping at the nearly $3 trillion budget-cutting proposal put forth by members of their party who are on the super committee; Republicans are taking shots at their own leadership; and House Speaker John Boehner's top aides advised members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction that the Democratic offer is "not a serious proposal" (Sherman and Bresnahan, 10/27).

Modern Healthcare: Debt-Reduction Proposals Spur Partisan Sniping
Both leaders appeared open to the inclusion of savings from Medicare and Medicaid. Pelosi said there were "no sacred cows" immune to cuts from the panel charged with finding at least $1.2 trillion in 10-year deficit reductions. Ultimately, Boehner said, the deficit reduction in the panel's final proposal would come from the thee large entitlement plans, and he explicitly called for savings from Medicaid, which he noted is projected to cost the federal government more than $10 trillion over the coming 10 years (Daly, 10/27).

National Journal: Republicans, Democrats Trade Barbs On Deficit Reduction
The GOP plan reportedly cuts about $185 billion from Medicaid and as much as $500 billion from Medicare. The Democratic plan would cut $400 billion from Medicare. Although it includes no new taxes — not even on the wealthiest taxpayers or corporations — it would increase some government fees and tweak the tax code in ways described as stimulative to the economy. Republicans say those changes would boost tax revenue (House, 10/27).

The Associated Press: Deficit-Reduction Panel Looking At Benefits, Taxes
Rival deficit-cutting plans advanced by Republicans and Democrats on Congress' secretive super committee would both mean smaller-than-expected cost of living benefit increases for veterans and federal retirees as well as Social Security recipients and bump up taxes for some individuals and families, according to officials familiar with the recommendations. In all, the changes would reduce deficits by an estimated $200 billion over a decade, a fraction of the committee's minimum goal of $1.2 trillion in savings (Taylor, 10/27).

The Hill: Pelosi Stays Mum On Proposed Medicare Cuts In Dems' Super Committee Plan
As a growing number of liberal Democrats are attacking a plan from super committee Democrats to slash Medicare benefits, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is being careful not to wade too deeply into the controversy. "It's no use asking me about specific things until we see the whole package," Pelosi said Thursday during a press briefing in the Capitol. "I'm not making any judgment about any package until I see the fuller package that it's a part of" (Lillis, 10/27).

The Hill: Bipartisan Duo Push Super Committee To Tackle Medicare Payments
A bipartisan pair of House lawmakers say the super committee has to deal with Medicare's payment system for doctors — ideally by scrapping it altogether. Reps. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) and Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) said the 12-member panel should permanently repeal the Medicare formula, known as the sustainable growth rate (Baker, 10/27).

Medscape: Big Medicare Pay Cut Would Shut Physician Doors to Patients
In yet another warning to lawmakers, a new survey of group practices shows that 51 percent will reduce the number of available appointment slots for new Medicare patients if Congress does not avert a 29.5 percent Medicare pay cut set for January 1. Another 30.9 percent of group practices would stop seeing new Medicare patients altogether, according to the survey conducted by the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA). And 34.8 percent would reduce access to existing Medicare patients. The MGMA says it intends to impress these findings on the Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, the "super committee" tasked with recommending $1.5 trillion in savings that Congress must enact by December 23 (Lowes, 10/27).

Politico Pro: Health Groups Hold Fire On Debt Panel Offers
As Democrats and Republicans on the congressional super committee quietly debut their deficit reduction outlines, health care interest groups are largely holding their fire even though both plans could result in provider payment cuts. That's partly because it's early in the process — but it's also because they know almost nothing about what the target looks like (Dobias, 10/27).

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