KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Fiscal Cliff: Dems, GOP Sparring Publicly Over Entitlement Cuts, Including Medicare

The Sunday talk shows featured key Democrats and Republicans.

The Associated Press: 'Cliff' Talks: Geithner Invites GOP Counteroffer
President Barack Obama is ready to entertain Republican proposals for spending cuts, but GOP lawmakers must first commit to higher tax rates on the rich and specify what additional spending cuts they want in a deal to avoid the looming "fiscal cliff," Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said. "The ball really is with them now," Geithner, one of the president's chief negotiators with Capitol Hill, said during appearances on five Sunday talk shows (Smith, 12/2).

USA Today: Geithner: No Social Security talks Now
Republicans say the rise of entitlement spending overall -- Medicare and Medicaid, as well as Social Security -- should be part of any debt reduction agreement now ... "Their answer to everything on the spending cut/entitlement reform side of the equation is 'maybe later--but tax everything else now,'" said McConnell spokesman Don Stewart (Jackson, 12/2).

The Hill: Boehner ‘Flabbergasted’ By Geithner Offer
The Ohio Republican said he told Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner “you can’t be serious,” when the lead White House negotiator presented the plan to GOP congressional leaders last week. Boehner detailed his reaction in an exclusive interview with “Fox News Sunday” ... GOP leaders want to extend the expiring Bush-era rates across the board and say their openness on revenues should be matched by Democrats putting serious entitlement reform on the table (Hooper, 12/2).

NBC News: Geithner Urges Republican Leaders To Offer Ideas On Averting Fiscal Cliff
He said if Republican leaders have their own alternative ways to reduce federal deficits, they need to offer Obama their proposals. ... In contrast, Geithner said, Obama has been specific, for example, about how he’d shift more of the burden of paying for Medicare to affluent retirees: his fiscal year 2013 budget proposal would increase premiums and co-payments for higher-income Medicare beneficiaries, starting in 2017 (Curry, 12/2).

Politico: Graham: 'We're Going Over The Cliff' 
Sen. Lindsey Graham, blasting President Barack Obama's approach to averting a fiscal crisis, said Sunday [on CBS' Face the Nation] that the United States looks primed to go over the fiscal cliff. ... "This offer doesn't remotely deal with entitlement reform in a way to save Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security from imminent bankruptcy (Glueck, 12/2).

ABC News: Rep. Tom Cole: Republicans Don’t Need to Present a Plan Yet
Republicans don’t need to counter President Obama’s proposal to avert the fiscal cliff with a formal plan of their own, according to Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., the deputy majority whip in the House of Representatives. ... “I’d like to thank the President and Tim Geithner for reuniting and re-energizing the Republican Caucus,” Cole said. ... [Obama's] proposal, which reportedly included $1.6 trillion in tax revenue, entitlement savings to be worked out next year, an end to debt ceiling votes, and stimulus spending, was soundly rejected by Republican legislators (Stephanopoulos, 12/2).

Earlier coverage included some details of each side's plans --

The Wall Street Journal: Obama’s Fiscal Cliff Offer
[Mr. Obama’s proposal] is culled from his 2012 budget and breaks down into two consecutive stages. .... Stage Two, with a framework to be agreed by the end of the year and fleshed out in 2013, would include:
$350 billion in cuts over 10 years from health-care entitlement programs, including savings prescription drugs, hospital debt and premiums. $250 billion in cuts to other mandatory programs over 10 years (Lee, 12/1).

The Wall Street Journal: GOP Takes Aim At Entitlements
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell outlined potential changes to Medicare and Social Security in an interview Friday, providing fresh clarity on the concessions Republicans would like to see from Democrats ... Mr. McConnell (R., Ky.) said bipartisan agreement on higher Medicare premiums for the wealthy, an increase in the Medicare eligibility age and slowing cost-of-living increases for Social Security could move both parties closer to a budget deal ... Some Democrats have said they were open to more so-called means testing in Medicare, which would charge higher premiums to higher-income recipients (Bendavid and Hook, 11/30).

Los Angeles Times: GOP Suggests Medicare, Social Security Cuts For 'Fiscal Cliff' Deal
The White House had offered as much as $400 billion in future, long-term reductions to Medicare and Medicaid as part of a broader $4-trillion deficit-reduction plan. Republicans have shot back that Obama’s offer was not serious. The decision by McConnell to more publicly negotiate comes as Democrats have complained that Republicans had yet to put their own offer on the table – a criticism Republicans dismissed, pointing to numerous bills approved by the GOP-led House ... Missing from McConnell’s offer were the more ambitious safety-net changes proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) (Mascaro, 12/1).

The New York Times: Aide To Obama Faces A Big Test in Fiscal Talks
When President Obama was locked in painful spending negotiations with House Republicans last spring, his exceedingly meticulous budget director, Jacob J. Lew, went to the Oval Office to propose some complex budget changes. ... With his owlish glasses and low-key manner, Mr. Lew may come off as just a policy nerd. But he is a fierce negotiator. When defending social safety net programs, particularly those like Medicaid that help the poor, he morphs into a warrior, Republicans say, though he has proved willing to make concessions (Stolberg, 12/1).


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