Debt Panel’s Draft Would Take On Medicare, Raise Social Security Age
President Barack Obama's bipartisan debt-reduction panel laid out a draft version of its recommendations for cutting spending and raising taxes on Wednesday, The New York Times reports. The proposal includes increasing the retirement age for Social Security and plans to reduce the growth of the Medicare program. In all, the proposals would lower deficits by $4 trillion through 2020 and "stabilize" debt. Liberal groups immediately lashed back at what they see as excessive cuts in spending (Calmes, 11/10).
Los Angeles Times: In addition to holding off on Social Security benefits until age 68, "[t]he proposal suggests expanding a number of initiatives in the healthcare overhaul Obama signed into law in March, including strengthening a controversial independent board designed to identify savings in Medicare. The report urges drug companies to expand discounts, pushes doctors to accept modest cuts in their Medicare fees in exchange for creating a more stable payment system, and recommends that Medicare beneficiaries pay more of the cost of care." Those proposals all attracted opponents during the health debate (Nicholas and Mascaro, 10/11).
The Associated Press: All of this is just the beginning of the review, though. "The full commission has yet to make recommendations, and the chairmen acknowledged their plan was dead on arrival -- but said it would prompt a more realistic national debate about what it'll take to solve the nation's fiscal woes." The panel is lead by former Republican Senate Majority Leader Alan Simpson and former Clinton Chief-of-Staff Erskine Bowles; its 18 members include congressional leaders as well as private citizens. The panel has a Dec. 1 deadline to offer final recommendations, but it's unclear whether the members will reach consensus, and at any rate, a congressional vote on the advice would be "non-binding" (Taylor, 11/11).
The Wall Street Journal: One example of the possible solutions being advanced by the commission that is a contentious one -- the public option. "The plan sets a long-term goal of containing the growth in federal health-care spending a major contributor to the deficit so it accounts for no more than 1% in excess of gross domestic product after 2020." Under the draft plan, a public health insurance organization would be created if that threshold is exceeded. "Given that Democrats with wide majorities in Congress couldn't pass a public option, it's hard to imagine a scenario where one is adopted" (Adamy, 11/10).
The Hill: "Bowles and Simpson recommended a variety of other short- and medium-term plans for cutting healthcare spending that could be used to pay for freezing scheduled cuts to doctors' Medicare reimbursements (which doctors consider their highest political priority). Averting cuts to doctors' Medicare payments would cost about $275 billion over 10 years. To defray that expense in the medium term, the chairmen have suggested asking doctors and other health providers to take responsibility for slowing the growth of healthcare costs" (Bolton, 11/10).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.