KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Looming Cuts Fuel Debate Over Medicare And Medicaid Spending

As the March 1 deadline for the sequester approaches, news outlets analyze the impact budget cuts might have on the U.S. economy in general and on Medicare specifically.

The New York Times: Budget Cuts Seen As Risk To Growth Of U.S. Economy
Sequestration would slash agencies' "budget authority" by about $85 billion, but the Congressional Budget Office this month estimated that actual outlays would fall by only about $44 billion in the 2013 fiscal year, with the rest accruing over time. That is still about 1 percent of total federal spending to be squeezed out in a matter of months. Many economists argue that the same cuts could be made with less pain by postponing some of them until later in the decade, when the economy is likely to be stronger. Many argue that growing spending on health care programs like Medicaid and Medicare is the real threat to the federal budget, not domestic spending on areas like education and support for poor families (Appelbaum and Lowrey, 2/20).

The Medicare NewsGroup: Automatic Cuts Or Not? A Primer On Sequestration And The Impact On Medicare
But if a deficit reduction deal is reached, it could still result in cuts to Medicare. Providers may not escape unscathed in such a deal and it could have a direct impact on beneficiaries. President Obama is open to increasing the Medicare Part B and D premiums paid by higher-income beneficiaries, while House Speaker John Boehner proposed raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65- to 67-years-old during the fiscal-cliff standoff last December (Sjoerdsma, 2/20).

In other budget news -

The Washington Post: Business Owners Urge Congress To Take Medicare, Social Security Cuts Off The Table
Responding to a series of policy questions posed by lobbying group Small Business Majority, 80 percent of business owners said they oppose proposals to save federal money by curbing Social Security benefits, which have been floated in varying degrees by both parties in Washington. Nearly three in four said lawmakers shouldn't cut back on Medicare, and two in three said the same about proposed cuts to Medicaid, according to the poll, which will be published Wednesday (Harrison, 2/20).

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