KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Debt-Ceiling Activity Moves On Multiple Tracks

The House GOP's "cut, cap and balance" plan, which will likely come up for a vote this week, could lead to deep cuts in Medicare and other federal safety net programs. Meanwhile, the White House and Senate leaders are discussing a compromise plan that has evolved from an approach first outlined by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Beyond that, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., has advanced an approach of his own, which would rake in $9 trillion in savings in 10 years through a combination of deep spending cuts, entitlement reforms and increased tax revenue.

The Washington Post: Debt-Ceiling Crisis Still Eludes Compromise
Beyond requiring that the budget be balanced each year, the so-called "cut, cap and balance" measure under House consideration would require that the constitutional provision include annual spending caps and a supermajority to approve tax increases. Obama issued a cautionary threat Monday to veto the measure should it pass Congress. The White House said the bill would set up an "unacceptable choice" between a disastrous failure to lift the nation's borrowing limit or passing a balanced budget amendment that would require draconian spending cuts in Medicare, Social Security and other federal programs (Helderman and Kane, 7/18).

Los Angeles Times: Symbolic House Vote On Debt Ceiling Approaches
The House prepared to vote on a Republican proposal to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for steep spending cuts, in defiance of President Obama's vow to veto the bill if it passed both chambers of Congress. … The White House attacked the Republican cut, cap and balance plan, portraying it as a radical response to the deficit problem that would dismantle Medicare and other aspects of the federal safety net (Mascaro, Parsons and Nicholas, 7/19).

The Wall Street Journal: Debt Deal Search Intensifies
Top White House officials and congressional leaders are racing against the clock to devise a scaled-down deficit-reduction proposal that would get both President Barack Obama's signature and enough Republican votes to pass the House in time to avert a government default. … The White House and House Republican leaders are now discussing a compromise that could draw from Messrs. Reid and McConnell's idea but give House Republicans ownership of it, a move that could make it more saleable to GOP members. … Meantime, House and Senate Republicans are embarking on a largely symbolic political mission, pushing this week for legislation that would cut spending by $5.8 trillion over 10 years. …. The bill would cut mandatory, or formula-based, spending by $35 billion in 2012, exempting Medicare, Social Security and veterans' programs. Democrats say that means programs such as school lunches, food stamps and Medicaid would be targeted and the spending cap would prompt cuts in Medicare and Social Security (Lee and Bendavid, 7/19).

The Fiscal Times: Real Government Waste: 18 Months of Debt Talks
In late 2009, President Obama and Congress first toyed with the idea of creating a powerful commission to slash the long-term deficit and restore fiscal sanity to the nation. The Senate lost its nerve and killed the proposal, but Obama came back with an executive order, creating a less influential panel to chart out a path. ... Over the ensuing year and a half, much energy, money and manpower was expended to address what virtually everyone in Washington agrees is an essential task: reining in the $1.5 trillion annual deficit and finally getting a handle on runaway spending, including health care and other entitlement programs that threaten to consume most of the federal budget in the coming decade (Pianin and DePaul, 7/19).

Politico: Debt Plan Levels Playing Field
The complex Senate plan to boost the nation's debt limit in short order, paired with a promise to slash federal spending on the back end, could give the health care sector a potentially fairer shake even though its lobbyists still expect Medicare and Medicaid to be in play. The eleventh-hour proposal under development by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and his Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell, would allow President Barack Obama to lift the debt ceiling at three intervals. Each opportunity, however, would require plans to rein in government spending. A bipartisan, 12-member congressional commission would be tasked with identifying those cuts. Its recommendations would enjoy a fast-track process in the House and Senate (Dobias, 7/18).

The Washington Post: Coburn Deficit Plan Offers $9 Trillion In Savings
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) on Monday released a plan that he says would achieve $9 trillion in deficit savings over the next decade through a combination of far-reaching spending cuts, entitlement reform and increased tax revenue. … The plan would cut $1 trillion in defense spending over the next 10 years; enact $2.6 trillion in deficit savings through changes to popular entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid; and generate $1 trillion in savings through reforming tax expenditures, including the elimination of ethanol subsidies (Sonmez, 7/18).

Politico: Tom Coburn Unveils $9 Trillion Plan
Sen. Tom Coburn unveiled a politically volatile package that would take an ax to federal agencies, dramatically overhaul entitlement programs and raise tax revenues - slicing a staggering $9 trillion from the national debt over 10 years. On Monday, the conservative Oklahoma senator released a 614-page report that has virtually no chance of becoming law because it would turn off just about everyone in Washington. But Coburn, a blunt and combative pol who plans to retire in 2016, says that's exactly the point: Every interest group and both parties need to swallow bitter political pills in order to put the country on a sustainable fiscal path (Raju, 7/18).

The Fiscal Times: A Radical New Plan To Slash The Deficit By $9 Trillion
The hard-charging conservative, who was a practicing physician before entering politics, would also save about $1 trillion in federal interest costs by curbing the projected growth of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Coburn would raise the eligibility age for all three, while calling for major reforms. ... Coburn's overall plan would gradually reduce the size of government by about 25 percent and balance the budget within 10 years (DePaul, 7/18).

News outlets also are reporting on how it is all playing among voters and how these events might be used in upcoming campaigns -

USA Today: Americans Fed Up With Constant Political Gridlock
So say many Americans after weeks of watching political wrangling over how to cut spending and whether to raise taxes as part of a deal to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by Aug. 2 so the federal government won't have to default on its loans for the first time (Hall, 7/19).

iWatch News: FACT CHECK: Crossroads Ad Targets Dems For Budget Woes
The conservative group Crossroads GPS has launched a $7 million ad campaign targeting President Obama, five Democratic senators and 10 representatives. A lot of the content in the ads is opinion on government spending, the budget and economic worries. found a few misleading bits: ... That national TV spot features a woman saying that "mom's Medicare will be cut." But the implication that the health care law takes away Medicare benefits is misleading (, 7/15).

Related from KHN's Capsules blog: Get Yer Summer Health Care Fact-Checking Here (Girshman, 7/15).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.