KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Dueling Budgets Will Show Partisan Differences On Medicare And Medicaid

At the same time, President Barack Obama appears to be harboring hopes of reaching a big deficit-reduction deal that could include some of the money-saving changes that Republicans favor. The idea worries some congressional Democrats.

The Wall Street Journal: Opening Budget Bids Set Parties' Battle Lines
Congress opens a new chapter in the budget debate this week with the introduction of dueling blueprints from two lawmakers who illustrate their parties' vastly different approaches to the role of government. … (Rep. Paul) Ryan's budget will include no new tax increases or Pentagon cuts while advancing big changes to Medicare and Medicaid, all with the goal of erasing the annual federal deficit in 10 years. (Sen. Patty) Murray's plan is expected to increase taxes on upper-income households and corporations and make modest spending cuts to domestic programs; it wouldn't balance the budget anytime soon (Hook and Peterson, 3/10).

The New York Times' Political Memo: In Search Of Debt Deal, Obama Walks A Narrow Path
President Obama will go to Capitol Hill this week to try to salvage a big deficit-reduction deal, battling not only Republican resistance but also complaints from Democrats that he mishandled his last attempt. … White House aides have not ruled out some money-saving structural reforms to Medicare that Republicans favor, notably an idea promoted by the House majority leader, Eric Cantor, to combine the program's doctor and hospital components with a single deductible for beneficiaries. Using savings from entitlement shifts like that to replace sequestration, as the automatic cuts are called, would meet Republicans' demands not to use tax increases for that purpose (Stevenson and Harwood, 3/10).

Politico: Democrats Not Sold On A Safety Net Bargain
The talk of any deal with congressional Republicans — and for now, it's just that: talk — has liberals worried the White House will give in to changes to safety net programs including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security (Nocera, 3/10).

In other budget news -

The Washington Post: Research Ties Economic Inequality To Gap In Life Expectancy
The tightening economic connection to longevity has profound implications for the simmering debate about trimming the nation's entitlement programs. Citing rising life expectancy, influential voices including the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction commission, the Business Roundtable and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have argued that it makes sense to raise the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare. But raising the eligibility ages — currently 65 for Medicare and moving toward 67 for full Social Security benefits — would mean fewer benefits for lower-income workers, who typically die younger than those who make more (Fletcher, 3/10).

The New York Times: Cuts Give Obama Path To Create Leaner Military
But the next set of cuts will be much harder, because they involve huge constituencies — in Congressional districts, inside the military services and among veterans' groups. "The problem is that the biggest, most-needed cuts are in programs that also have the broadest set of defenders," said Maren Leed, the director of the defense policy studies group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and a former top aide to Gen. Ray Odierno, now the Army's chief of staff. The most obvious examples of those problems come in base closings and higher co-payments or premiums for the beneficiaries of Tricare, the military's sprawling health care program, which costs upward of $51 billion a year (Sanger and Shanker, 3/10).

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