KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Obama, Congressional Leaders Strike Debt-Limit Deal

The agreement, which has the support of House and Senate Democratic and Republican leaders, must now win the approval of rank-and-file members. Within the agreed-upon framework, the second wave of cuts could touch payments to Medicare providers, but beneficiaries would not be hit. Also, programs for the poor, such as Medicaid, would be exempted.

The New York Times: Obama And Leaders Reach Debt Deal
President Obama and Congressional leaders of both parties said late Sunday that they had agreed to a framework for a budget deal that would cut trillions of dollars in federal spending over the next decade and clear the way for an increase in the government's borrowing limit (Hulse and Cooper, 7/31).

The Washington Post: White House, Congressional Leaders Reach Debt-Limit Deal
Passage of the agreement, however, remained far from certain in the House, where skeptical Republicans were just beginning to digest the details. …  In the end, negotiators settled on a trigger that would force automatic across-the-board cuts of $1.2 trillion to agency budgets over the next decade, split half and half between domestic programs and defense. Programs for the poor, including Medicaid and Social Security, would be exempted. But Medicare payments to providers could be hit (Montgomery and Kane, 8/1).

Los Angeles Times: U.S. Leaders Strike Debt Deal To Avoid Default
In the second stage, a bipartisan congressional committee would be established to recommend by late November $1.5 trillion in further cuts. If the committee deadlocked and Congress failed to adopt its recommendations by December, as many lawmakers say is inevitable, as much as $1.2 trillion in additional cuts would automatically be triggered, starting at the beginning of 2013. That date would allow the Congress chosen in the next election to undo - or deepen - the cuts. … The tentative deal would require automatic cuts of equal size, in dollars, in both defense and domestic accounts, officials said. … Medicare, the popular health program for seniors, would face a cap on expenditures. White House officials said Democrats had succeeded in writing the provisions so the cuts would be limited to 2 percent and would not hit Medicare beneficiaries, but would instead reduce payments to doctors, hospitals and other providers of Medicare services (Mascaro and Hennessey, 8/1).

Bloomberg: Debt-Limit Deal To Get Congress Vote Today
The framework, as detailed by officials in both parties, would cut $917 billion in spending over a decade, raise the debt limit initially by $900 billion and assign a special congressional committee to find another $1.5 trillion in deficit savings by late November, to be enacted by Christmas. If Congress met that deadline and deficit target, or voted to send a balanced-budget constitutional amendment to the states, Obama would receive another $1.5 trillion borrowing boost. In the case of Congress failing to take either step, or not producing debt savings of at least $1.2 trillion, the plan allows the president to obtain a $1.2 trillion debt-ceiling extension. Still, that would trigger automatic spending cuts across the government - including in defense and Medicare - to take effect starting in 2013. The Medicare cuts would only affect provider reimbursements, not benefits (Hirschfeld Davis and Dorning, 8/1).

The New York Times: Congress Must Trim Deficit To Avoid Broader Cuts
The deal announced on Sunday by Congressional leaders and the White House would make across-the-board cuts in military spending, education, transportation and Medicare payments to health care providers if Congress does not enact further deficit-cutting legislation by the end of the year (Pear, 7/31).

The Wall Street Journal: Leaders Agree On Debt Deal
The deal would raise the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion in two stages, and provide initially for $917 billion in spending cuts over 10 years. A special committee of lawmakers would be charged with finding another $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction, which could come through a tax overhaul and changes to safety-net programs. If the committee doesn't find at least $1.2 trillion in savings, or Congress doesn't adopt its proposals, a pre-set array of spending cuts would kick in, including cuts in military spending and Medicare payments to health care providers (Bendavid and Lee, 8/1).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Debt Ceiling Compromise Is Likely To Mean Further Fiscal Challenges For States
There also was concern among governors, state lawmakers and state agency heads that Congress would make deep reductions or changes in federal aid for health services for the needy, most notably through Medicaid. That could shift more of the costs onto states that already are having trouble balancing their budgets (7/31).

NPR: Is There A Debt-Ceiling Deal: Yes And No
Do we have a deal? It's still a yes and no situation. The deal the president has accepted appears likely to be acceptable to a Senate majority of 60 as well. …The House is a bigger question. Nancy Pelosi and Speaker John Boehner may have agreed with the president; their respective parties have yet to do so. Democrats are unhappy about being taken for granted, and many want to vote no on this plan. There are no revenues in it, and all of the pain is on the spending side, with a clear sense that this round and the next round will be much the same in that regard and that every future increase in the debt ceiling will bring another major squeeze on beneficiaries of government programs (Elving, 7/31).

The Fiscal Times: Debt Deal on the Table: Will Congress Vote Yes?
However, even as negotiators sought to put the final changes on the plan, Republicans and Democrats were still squabbling over the contours of a budget enforcement tool or "trigger" that would automatically impose deep, across the board spending cuts and entitlement reforms if Congress and a new special joint-committee can't agree to the terms of the reductions. ... moderate and liberal Democrats in the House and Senate are furious about the depth of the cuts that would be made in Medicare, Medicaid and other social safety-net programs to achieve the overall cuts – especially when tax increases won't be part of the mix (Pianin and DePaul, 7/31). 

Related, earlier coverage from KHN: Health Industry Could Feel Pinch, Then Pain From Default (Rau, Weaver and Marcy, 7/29).

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