KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Debt Talks: Medicare Savings In Exchange For Added Revenue?

As the high-level negotiations continue, health care advocates are stepping up their campaigns to protect against Medicare and Medicaid cuts. Meanwhile, organizations representing physicians - including the American Medical Association - maintain that a permanent fix to Medicare's physician payment formula should be included in the debt-ceiling legislation.

The New York Times: Debt Divide Remains As President Steps In
The high-level meetings on Monday were seen as a "regrouping phase," which an administration official said was likely to set the stage for yet another round of gritty negotiations between the White House and Congressional leaders before Aug. 2, when federal borrowing authority will expire. … As the debt talks resumed at the White House, Senator Bernard Sanders, the Vermont independent, took the floor to urge the president to resist Republican pressure to wring most of the savings out of federal programs rather than impose any new taxes on the nation's most affluent (Hulse, 6/27).

The Washington Post: Obama Enters Debt Talks
Some Republicans have demanded that a stringent balanced budget amendment be attached to the debt-increase legislation. House Democrats vigorously oppose such a plan. Other GOP leaders have pushed aggressively to include steep savings from Medicare, and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), along with fiscal hawk Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), plans to introduce legislation Tuesday that would shave about $500 billion from Medicare's coffers over 10 years, in part by increasing the eligibility age from 65 to 67. Congressional Democrats have vowed to block any plan if it includes reduced benefits for seniors (Kane and Helderman, 6/27).

Fox News: Lieberman, Coburn To Pitch Plan To Stabilize Medicare, Save $500 Billion Over 10 Years
Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Tom Coburn, R-Mont, an unlikely duo, are joining forces in an attempt to save Medicare - one of the key points of debate in the fight over deficit reduction. The pair plan to unveil their Medicare plan Tuesday as White House and congressional negotiators struggle to nail down an agreement to cut spending and raise the debt ceiling before the Obama administration's emergency measures run out in early August (Turner, 6/28).

Politico: Revenue Vs. Cuts In Debt Debate
For their part, Obama and Reid appear prepared to reach much higher, putting substantial Medicare savings on the table if Republicans would accept added revenues. With the House GOP leadership in New York, all of Monday's White House maneuvering was Senate-centric. But Obama's hope is that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), with whom he met privately last week, will be intrigued by a bolder package that might also help neutralize the Medicare issue now hurting the GOP among elderly voters (Rogers, 6/27).

In addition, Medicare and Medicaid advocates step up their campaigns to protect the entitlement programs from cuts, and to advance certain interests -

The Hill: Hospitals Launch Ad Campaign Against Medicare, Medicaid Cuts
A broad array of hospital groups on Monday launched a multiweek, national ad campaign against health care cuts made up of radio, television and print spots. The multimillion-dollar ad buy comes as lawmakers have been discussing deep cuts to Medicare and Medicaid as part of debt-ceiling negotiations (the White House has proposed $1 trillion in cuts to domestic spending and $300 billion in defense cuts) (Pecquet, 6/27).

Politico Pro: Advocates Target Obama's Medicaid Plan
Defenders of Medicaid have been fighting hard against Republican proposals to cut the program, but they're just waking up to the threat of one proposed by the Obama administration. It's an idea to change the way federal matching funds work, and save money in the process - and it would probably do it by shifting costs to the states. If that happens, the Medicaid advocates fear, the states will just pass on the cuts to providers and, ultimately, the patients. In the budget blueprint unveiled in April, President Barack Obama proposed adjusting the way federal matching funds paid to the states are calculated for Medicaid and its companion, the State Children's Health Insurance Program. Sources close to the administration tell Politico that White House officials have been trying to develop the idea into a version that could become part of a deal in the ongoing deficit reduction talks (Feder, 6/28).

The Tennessean: Medicaid Doctor's Pay Plans Are Stumbling Blocks In Budget Negotiations
As the heat rises on the Potomac, it is customary for Congress to make a hard push in June and July to escape the heat of August. This year, the heat will be thermometric and political because in August Congress must extend the federal borrowing capacity or face the consequences. For the past several weeks, Vice President Joe Biden has been leading a group of key Democratic and Republican lawmakers seeking to find a bipartisan compromise on the budget, the deficit and the federal debt limit. In recent days, two health-care topics have become the subjects of significant speculation and discussion. Those subjects are the physician payment fix and Medicaid payment reform. The Democratic negotiators - Biden and his Democratic colleagues - have let it be known that the physician payment problem needs to be fixed as part of the budget negotiations (Cowart, 6/28).

The Hill: AMA: Fix SGR In Debt-Ceiling Deal
More than 100 groups representing doctors said Monday that an agreement on the U.S. debt ceiling should include a permanent fix to the formula that Medicare uses to pay doctors. Republican negotiators have poured cold water on the idea of using the debt-ceiling vote to tackle the "sustainable growth rate" formula (SGR). But the American Medical Association and other doctors groups say the two go hand-in-hand (Baker, 6/27).

And, as a reminder of the politics that surround possible changes in Medicare, MarketWatch reports on Rep. Nancy Pelosi's warning -

MarketWatch: Pelosi Warns Republicans To Expect Medicare Attacks
Republicans can't say they haven't been warned. Nancy Pelosi, the top House Democrat, says her party will make Medicare their No. 1 issue in the 2012 election. In an article Monday in the Washington Post, Pelosi said: "Our three most important issues: Medicare, Medicare and Medicare." The former speaker of the House, who had laid low after last year's devastating election losses, is raising her public profile again with repeated attacks on Republicans. Pelosi believes her party can win back the House in 2012 by attacking a Republican plan to give Medicare the biggest overhaul in its 46-year history (Bartash, 6/27). 

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