KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Debt-Ceiling Debate’s Effect On Medicare, Medicaid Likely To Have Election Consequences

Heading into another week of debt-ceiling negotiations, Democrats and Republicans continue to tussle over Medicare and Medicaid. News outlets covered the Sunday talk shows, where the arguments for the next few days were laid out.

CNN: Meeting U.S. Debt Obligations Is The Only Plan, Lew Says
If the White House has a plan for how it will deal with a potential default on its bills, budget director Jacob Lew wasn't talking about it Sunday.  ...  The president used his [weekly] address [Saturday] to reach out to the middle class, reiterating his call for higher taxes on the wealthy and reforms to politically popular entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security. ... The Republicans also said they intend to move forward with a vote next week with the "cut, cap, and balance" plan -- a blueprint to significantly cut spending, cap future expenditures and amend the Constitution to require the balanced budget (Cohen, 7/17).

The Hill: Graham Pushes 'Cut, Cap And Balance' Plan
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he'll only vote to raise the debt ceiling if lawmakers back a House plan to cut and cap spending and pass a balanced budget amendment.  ... Lew called the proposal "draconian" because it applies spending limitations that would force cuts in Medicare and Social Security "more deeply than even the House Budget resolution." (Needham, 7/17).

The Wall Street Journal: Few Signs of Progress in Debt Talks
White House officials believe the framework of a deal has to be completed by Friday to give lawmakers enough time to craft and pass a debt-ceiling increase by Aug. 2. They have ramped up their rhetoric in the last week, warning about the consequences of a default.  ... Republicans, meanwhile, said the White House hadn't done enough to specify what spending reductions and changes to entitlement programs like Medicare the administration would support, making negotiations more difficult (Paletta and Peterson, 7/17).

Politico: Coburn Eyes Trillions In Cuts And Tax Reforms 
Appearing Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation," [Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.] said that $9 trillion can be cut from the budget in 10 years - and he plans to lay out how to slash $1 trillion from the Pentagon, another $500 billion from discretionary spending and save "trillions" from overhauling entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security (Raju, 7/17).

The Washington Post: Top Lawmakers Target 'Grand Bargain' For Debt Plan
Even as President Obama and congressional leaders focus on a fallback plan to lift the nation's debt ceiling, top Democrats and Republicans have begun to map a new way to craft the same sort of ambitious deficit-cutting plan they abandoned last week. ... The House is expected to vote Tuesday on [a balanced-budget] amendment, but it has scant odds of getting the needed supermajority in the Senate. Democrats say an 18 percent cap in a country with an aging population and rising health-care costs would lead to ruinous cuts.  ... [Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is] eager to avoid cuts to Medicare that would undermine Democrats' ability to campaign against the House GOP's plan to eventually replace Medicare with a system of subsidies to buy private coverage (MacGillis and Montgomery, 7/16).

Politico: Jordan: GOP Won't Vote For McConnell Plan
Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, chairman of the conservative House Republican Study Committee, says there would be mass GOP defections if Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) fall-back debt-limit plan heads to the House for a vote. "The McConnell plan doesn't have 218 Republican votes," Jordan said on "Fox News Sunday." ... Toward the end of their appearance, Jordan and [Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.] tried to speak over one another about the plan, with Van Hollen saying it would make it harder to close tax loopholes and make it easier to cut into entitlements such as Medicare (Raju, 7/17).

The Hill: Dems' Muddled Message On Medicaid Worries Advocates
Medicaid advocates remain worried that the state-federal program for low-income Americans remains on the chopping block as debt ceiling negotiations enter the final stretch. Congressional Democrats' on-again, off-again pledge to protect the program from drastic cuts is causing heartburn among advocates for the poor and state officials who worry about the lawmakers' commitment. In particular, the Democratic leadership has at times left out any mention of Medicaid when vowing to fight entitlement cuts (Pecquet, 7/16).

The New York Times: G.O.P. Freshmen Say Debt Concerns Them More Than Re-election 
[C]onservative House Republicans have a virtual veto over a measure to increase the debt ceiling ... Senator Patrick J. Toomey, a freshman Republican from Pennsylvania, said a delay in raising the debt limit need not cause a default because the Treasury secretary could set priorities in paying government obligations. Many Republicans would give priority to Social Security, Medicare, veterans' benefits and paychecks for the armed forces (Pear, 7/16).

The Associated Press: Debt Crisis May Help Obama Woo Independent Voters
It's possible the debt-ceiling debate will turn out badly for President Barack Obama. For now, however, it may be helping his image with a vital group: independent voters, who have decided the last several elections. ... Over the past week, Obama repeatedly has positioned himself as someone willing to make political sacrifices to reach a bipartisan accord and avoid a potentially disastrous default on U.S. obligations. He says some trims are needed to Social Security and Medicare, the safety-net programs dear to liberal Democrats (Babington, 7/17).

The Examiner: Obama's 2012 Prospects Tied To Debt Ceiling Deal 
After a week of meetings with congressional leaders, officials involved in negotiations acknowledge that Obama's push for a $4 trillion package of spending cuts and tax increases over the next decade has no chance of passing the Republican-controlled House. Instead, leaders on both sides of the aisle are working behind the scenes on a fallback option that at a minimum would raise the debt ceiling and avoid the prospect of government default. ... Many progressives are furious that Obama put cuts to Medicare and Social Security on the table, and some liberal groups have vowed to pull support from his campaign if such reductions are included in a deal (Hughes, 7/16).

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