KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Debt-Ceiling Negotiations Stall

A top Republican walks away from the bargaining table -- leaving the debate unresolved regarding Democratic demands for higher taxes and spending reductions at the Pentagon, and GOP calls for significant cuts to health and retirement programs. Meanwhile, during a Senate Finance Committee hearing, a former Clinton administration official testified that the current budget crisis is not being caused by Medicare and Medicaid costs, but by inadequate revenue and the sluggish economy.

The Washington Post: Republicans Pull Out Of Debt Talks, Demand Obama Meet Directly With GOP Over Taxes
With the clock ticking toward an Aug. 2 deadline, senior Republicans said negotiations led by Vice President Biden had ceased making headway as congressional Democrats pressed for as much as $400 billion in new taxes on corporations and the nation's wealthiest households. … The breakdown of the talks comes after seven weeks of negotiations that all sides say made real progress toward a plan to restrain the swollen national debt. Biden and six lawmakers from both parties had tentatively agreed to more than $1 trillion in savings and had begun to tackle the toughest issues: Democratic demands for higher taxes and spending cuts at the Pentagon, and Republican demands for sharp cuts to health and retirement programs (Montgomery, 6/23).

Los Angeles Times: Top Republican Quits Debt Talks
White House-led deficit reduction talks unraveled Thursday as a top Republican pulled out, putting pressure on President Obama to help resolve an impasse over the key issue holding up a deal: whether to allow new revenue by ending certain tax breaks. Biden and the congressional negotiators have identified more than $1 trillion in potential savings on cuts to agricultural subsidies and federal employee pensions, and new revenue through the auction of the communication spectrum. They also have identified domestic spending cuts, including possible reductions to the Medicaid program for the low-income, the disabled and seniors (Mascaro, 6/23).

The Wall Street Journal: Tax Dispute Stalls Debt Talks
The group, led by Vice President Joseph Biden, canceled its scheduled meeting Thursday. The suspension of the group's work could mark the beginning of the final stage of budget negotiations, which most participants had long assumed would be concluded by the president, the speaker and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Hook and Boles, 6/24).

CQ HealthBeat: Vladeck: It's Not a Medicare Crisis, It's A Revenue Crisis
Bruce Vladeck, who ran the Medicare and Medicaid programs in the Clinton administration, told a Senate Finance Committee hearing Thursday that the budget crisis facing the nation stems not from those two entitlements but from inadequate revenue and a flagging economy. Pump up revenues and get the economy growing and the financing challenges involved with the two government health care programs are manageable, he said (Reichard, 6/23).

Modern Healthcare: Divisions Clear On Entitlement Debate
In a public reflection of closed-door debates likely occurring over a solution to the federal debt crisis, Republicans and Democrats offered starkly different approaches in a Senate hearing Thursday on offsetting the cost of health care driving ever-larger federal annual deficits and accumulated debt. Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee repeatedly urged tax increases while noting that current federal revenue of 15 percent of gross domestic product is well-below the 19 percent average of recent decades (Daly, 6/23). 

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