KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Deficit-Reduction Talks: Progress Or Stalemate?

As President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner continue trying to move toward an ambitious $4 trillion grand bargain, reports indicate that wide differences remain. Still in the mix are cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and other government programs that would be combined with revenue increases resulting from a tax code revamp. Some specific proposals include raising Medicare's eligibility age and slowing cost-of-living increases for Medicare and Social Security. Meanwhile, fault lines are beginning to show between the White House and congressional Democrats.

The Associated Press: Amid Debt Talks, House Budget Plan Faces Senate
The Senate is moving to cast away a budget cutting plan passed by the Republican-controlled House, clearing the way for increasingly urgent government talks over raising the nation's debt ceiling. President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner searched once more for an ambitious $4 trillion grand bargain, but officials said wide differences remained. Less than two weeks from an Aug. 2 deadline that could precipitate a first-ever government default, the continuing Obama-Boehner talks kept alive the possibility of substantial deficit reduction that would combine cuts in spending on major benefit programs like Medicare and Medicaid and revenue increases through a broad overhaul of the tax code (7/22).

The New York Times: Boehner And Obama Nearing Deal On Cuts And Taxes
President Obama and the Republican House speaker, John A. Boehner, once again struggled against resistance from their respective parties on Thursday as they tried to shape a sweeping deficit-reduction agreement that could avert a government default in less than two weeks. … But the president and Mr. Boehner were moving ahead with their plan, aides said, trying to agree on matters like how much new revenue would be raised, how much would go to deficit reduction, how much to lower tax rates and, perhaps most critical, how to enforce the requirement for new tax revenue through painful consequences for both parties should they be unable to overhaul the tax code in 2012. The White House wants a trigger that would raise taxes on the wealthy; Mr. Boehner wants the potential penalty for inaction to include repeal of the Obama health care law's mandate that all individuals purchase health insurance after 2014 (Hulse and Calmes, 7/21).

The Wall Street Journal: Obama And Boehner Advance Toward Deal To Cut Deficit
With prospects of a government default looming in early August, leaders on both sides denied Thursday that a deal was close. But the White House provided an outline of the deal to Democratic congressional leaders, aides said. It's unclear where $3 trillion in spending would be cut. But among recently discussed ideas are an array of cuts to federal programs, raising the Medicare eligibility age to 67, and relying on a different formula that would slow cost-of-living increases to Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries (Bendavid, Lee and Hook, 7/22).

The Washington Post: Debt-Limit Talks: As Obama, Boehner Rush To Strike Deal, Democrats Are Left Fuming
President Obama and House Speaker John A. Boehner rushed Thursday to strike agreement on a far-reaching plan to reduce the national debt but faced a revolt from Democrats furious that the accord appeared to include no immediate provision to raise taxes. With 12 days left until the Treasury begins to run short of cash, Obama and Boehner (R-Ohio) were still pursuing the most ambitious plan to restrain the national debt in at least 20 years. Talks focused on sharp cuts in agency spending and politically painful changes to cherished health and retirement programs aimed at saving roughly $3 trillion over the next decade (Montgomery and Kane, 7/21).

Los Angeles Times: Democrats Erupt Over Latest Plan On Debt Ceiling
The White House briefed Democratic leaders on a possible $3-trillion deficit-reduction deal, the latest in a rapid-fire series of proposals aimed at winning congressional approval for an increase in the nation's $14.3-trillion borrowing limit before Aug. 2. That's when the government is expected to run short of funds and risk defaulting on its debt. An early version of the plan would lock in cuts in spending and social programs, as Republicans want, but appeared to defer decisions on increasing tax revenues until 2012 (Mascaro and Parsons, 7/22).

The Washington Post: Debt Talks Bring Tensions Between Democrats, Obama To Surface
With more concerns than details, Democrats lashed out, saying that deep cuts to federal agency budgets and entitlements were too steep a price to pay. They questioned whether Obama shared their core values, and they sought reassurance - at a hastily arranged evening meeting at the White House that lasted nearly two hours - that the final legislative package would be the balanced approach that the president had promised (Kane, 7/21).

Politico Pro: CLASS Act Supporters Push Against Repeal
Advocates backing the CLASS long-term care program are pushing back against the Gang of Six budget compromise that includes cutting the program. "As you know, eliminating CLASS does not reduce the deficit - it adds to it," the AdvanceCLASS coalition wrote in a letter to the White House and congressional leaders Thursday. "In fact, the Congressional Budget Office found that CLASS will reduce federal deficits by $83 billion over the next 10 years, including both premium income and Medicaid savings" (Feder, 7/22).

Politico Pro: Gang Of Six Plan Would 'Kick The Can'
It's going to be a guessing game on what the committees might do if Obama and Congress reached a debt ceiling deal that takes any form of the Gang of Six plan. And that's the point. It's the reason the three Democratic senators and three Republican senators were able to get even a rough agreement: They stopped worrying about exactly where the cuts would come from. It's far from a given that a debt ceiling deal would build on the Gang of Six plan - especially since the status of Obama's talks with Republican leaders seemed to be wildly in flux Thursday (Nather, 7/21). 

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