KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Schumer Offers Views On How Deficit Talks Should Tackle Entitlement, Tax Reform

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., noted that, among Democrats, there is a lot of opposition to raising Medicare's eligibility age but also interest in overhauling entitlements as part of the push to reach a grand bargain.

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Schumer: New Tack On Taxes
Sen. Charles Schumer, the Senate’s third-ranking Democrat, will offer a tax rewrite that includes tightening tax breaks – but no across-the-board rate cuts – in exchange for an overhaul of entitlement programs. ... he says that Republicans should be drawn to such a deal by the prospect of a bipartisan bargain that also includes changes to improve the sustainability of entitlement programs. Those programs – such as Social Security and Medicare – are expected to run substantial shortfalls in the future, adding dramatically to budget deficits (McKinnon, 10/9).

The New York Times: Schumer Shakes Up Deficit Talks With Call To Raise Taxes On The Rich
But some Democrats involved in the negotiations say Mr. Schumer's position could prove helpful by demarcating the left's opening position on tax cuts for the rich and by opening a new avenue for negotiation over entitlement programs. Mr. Schumer said Republicans would be drawn to the table by the prospect of making changes to Medicare and other entitlements. While he did not specify what changes he would accept, Republicans in deficit talks have demanded the restructuring of entitlements in exchange for added revenues (Weisman, 10/9).

The Washington Post: Schumer: Tax Reform Should Cut Deficits, Not Tax Rates
(Some) Democrats worry that opening with an offer to lower the top rate will push the final number far lower than Democrats are willing to go. "Simpson-Bowles is a compromise, not the starting point," said one House aide. In that regard, Schumer may be planting the Democratic flag at 39.6 percent not to thwart compromise but to encourage a deal closer to 35 percent than to the lower GOP targets. Instead of lower rates, Schumer said, "the lure for Republicans to come to the table around a grand bargain should be the potential for serious entitlement reform" — including major changes to Medicare, the biggest driver of projected deficits. But Democrats have so far rejected structural changes to the program. On Tuesday, Schumer declined to say what new revisions Democrats were willing to contemplate (Montgomery and Khimm, 10/9).

Kaiser Health News: Schumer: 'A Lot Of Opposition' To Raising Medicare Age
Democrats have said they are willing to overhaul entitlements if Republicans agree to new tax revenues as part of a 'grand bargain' to reduce the deficit, but don't expect the Medicare eligibility age to be increased as part of any deal, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said Tuesday (Carey, 10/10).

Modern Healthcare: Tackle Medicare During Lame Duck Session, Schumer Says
The short post-election congressional session needs to include an entitlement reform package that cuts "hundreds of billions of dollars" from Medicare, a senior Senate Democrat said Tuesday. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate and a senior member of the powerful Finance Committee, urged the Medicare cuts as part of a "grand bargain" that produces at least $4 trillion in deficit reduction. The package also should increase taxes on high income earners while maintaining current rates for taxpayers with incomes below $250,000. Other Democrats and Republicans have urged delaying any entitlement talks until the next Congress is seated, but Schumer said a deal is more likely to occur if it is attempted to during the lame-duck session (Daly, 10/9).

Meanwhile, news outlets also offer details on the efforts underway by a group of senators to reach a bipartisan deficit reduction agreement.

Los Angeles Times: Group Of Senators Seeks Bipartisan Deficit Reduction Deal
As a lofty political debate over taxes and spending plays out on the presidential campaign trail, a more practical one is unfolding this week in Virginia as eight senators try to strike a bipartisan deficit reduction deal (Mascaro, 10/9).

Politico: Senators Throw Elbows For Seats At Fiscal Table
There's nothing on the table yet from anyone. But these moves illustrate the furious, power-driven scramble under way right now to shape the real negotiations on the nation’s fiscal future immediately after the election. It's a drive to lay down markers on taxes, spending and deficit reduction before the real talks begin (Raju and Sloan, 10/9).

The New York Times' Economix: Q & A: Understanding The Fiscal Cliff
In the first two days of 2013, large tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003 will expire and across-the-board cuts to defense and nondefense programs in the government will begin a drastic and sudden hit to the economy — a so-called fiscal cliff — that both parties say could be damaging to the unsteady recovery. Here is a primer on the tax increases and program cuts and their potential impact on the economy (Weisman, 10/9).

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