KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Congress Closes In On Modest Budget Deal

Officials say negotiators are cobbling together a deal that offsets planned sequester cuts, but which includes none of the big reductions in Medicare or other entitlements sought by Republicans, nor any of the tax increases sought by Democrats. Instead, it includes targeted measures, such as increased fees for airport-security and federal guarantees of private pensions.

The New York Times: Congress Nears Modest Accord On The Budget
The deal would increase revenue by raising some fees and would shift some cuts away from domestic and defense programs, partly alleviating the squeeze of across-the-board spending cuts imposed last year, which are set to worsen in 2014. Spending on defense and domestic programs would rise to about $1 trillion for the current fiscal year from $986 billion, the fiscal 2013 level that remains in effect under the continuing resolution passed in October. Absent a deal, further cuts would go into effect in January, and discretionary spending would be cut to $967 billion for fiscal 2014. But the agreement would leave to future negotiations the big issues of curbing future spending increases in the fast-growing entitlement programs and the proper level of tax revenues. It also would not extend unemployment benefits set to expire Dec. 28, or deal with impending cuts to Medicare health care providers (Weisman, 12/5).

The Wall Street Journal: Budget Pact Comes Into View
Officials familiar with the talks say negotiators are stitching together a package of offsets to the planned sequester cuts that would include none of the major cuts in Medicare or other entitlement programs that Mr. Ryan has wanted, nor eliminate any of the tax increases that Ms. Murray sought. Instead, it would include more targeted and arcane measures, such as increased fees for airport-security and federal guarantees of private pensions (Hook, 12/5).

CQ HealthBeat: Little Sequester Relief Seen For Health Agencies, None For Medicare
A budget deal now in the works appears likely to provide little relief from the sequester’s bite on the budgets of federal health agencies —and none at all for the Medicare program. For now, the best-case scenario for relief from the sequester provisions of the budget control law (PL 112-25) appears to be a framework under discussion that would raise spending a modest amount over the rest of this fiscal year in exchange for compensating offsets elsewhere in the budget (Young, 12/5).

CQ HealthBeat: Details Emerge On ‘Doc Fix’ Draft, But Three-Month Patch Still Likely
Lawmakers on House and Senate committees have made a number of changes to their joint, bipartisan proposal to replace how Medicare pays physicians, in hopes of having dual markups on the legislation next week.  The alterations to the draft legislative framework reflect comments from provider and patient groups, as well as other stakeholders (Ethridge, 12/5).

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