KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

S&P Downgrade Could Press ‘Super Committee’ Focus On Entitlements

Speculation continues about whether the yet-to-be named panel, created by the debt deal, will be able to find the necessary budget cuts to reach the goal of $1.2 trillion in savings over the next 10 years. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is among those who have low expectations.

The New York Times: S & P Downgrade Seen As Adding Urgency To Debt-Cutting Panel
The downgrade of the United States government's credit rating by Standard & Poor's is almost sure to increase pressure on a new Congressional "super committee" to mute ideological disagreements and recommend a package of deficit-reduction measures far exceeding its original goal of at least $1.5 trillion, lawmakers said Sunday (Pear, 8/7).

The Associated Press: More Spending Cuts On The Way: The Big Issues
Congressional Democrats successfully opposed cuts to Medicare benefits, but lawmakers didn't completely shield the program. Although there will be no initial reductions, there would be an automatic 2 percent cut to providers if the new joint committee cannot agree on a new deficit reduction package. The joint committee can include Medicare changes in its package (8/6).

The New York Times: U.S. Debt Drama Is Far From Over (Letter From Washington)
Whatever the merits of the downgrade decision, it was made easier by the phoniness of the deficit deal approved by Congress, which calls for $900 billion of spending cuts, one-third from defense. The agreement doesn't touch the two drivers of chronic deficits: out-of-control spending on entitlements, especially health care, and insufficient revenue. The super committee is being created to cut at least $1.2 trillion from the budget over the next decade or, if it fails, automatically trigger reductions from both defense and nondefense expenses. It is likely this bipartisan panel will split over whether to include revenue increases and cutbacks in entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security (Hunt, 8/7).

Roll Call: Ryan Doesn't Expect Much From Deficit Committee
Rep. Paul Ryan, the top Republican on the House Budget Committee, said on Sunday he doesn't have high expectations for the new savings "super committee" because Democrats won't consider changes to health care reform. "I'm not putting my stock in this committee," the Wisconsin lawmaker said in an interview on "Fox News Sunday." "I think people are overemphasizing what this committee is going to achieve. ... I don't think a grand bargain is going to come out of this because [Democrats] aren't willing to put health care reform on the table" (Lorber, 8/7).

Meanwhile, a special congressional election in Nevada may offer a window into how voters are viewing issues related to the economy and Medicare.

National Journal: Marshall Hits Amodei On Medicare
Can the Medicare lightning strike again in a special election for Democrats? Kate Marshall hopes it can in Nevada's 2nd District race. The Democratic state treasurer released her third ad on Friday in the contest against Republican Mark Amodei, but the new spot strays from the solely economic debate which has been the primary focus in the race so far. In the new 30-second ad, Marshall hammers the former Nevada GOP chairman for his support of Rep. Paul Ryan's, R-Wis., budget plan that would revamp Medicare. It's a tactic that worked well for now-Rep. Kathy Hochul, D-N.Y., earlier this year in New York's 26th District race in a slightly more Republican-leaning district (Taylor, 8/5).

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