KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Lawmakers Return To Washington To Face The ‘Fiscal Cliff’

As interest groups ranging from business lobbies to AARP mobilize to protect their constituencies, some Democrats acknowledge that Medicare and Medicaid need to be part of the conversation.

The Wall Street Journal: Talks Over Fiscal Cliff Stay Stuck In Low Gear
Congressional leaders return to Washington this week facing the prospect that talks with the White House over the country's budget impasse have barely progressed, a reminder of the philosophical divisions that remain despite both sides' early professions of optimism. … Inconclusive talks among high-level aides have done more to define the differences between the two parties than bridge them, according to people in both parties. Republican leaders have agreed to boost tax revenue by capping deductions rather than raising rates. And senior Democrats have agreed to modest changes to programs such as Medicare. Each side has resisted ceding too much ground and views their adversaries' concessions as inadequate (Hook and Paletta, 11/25).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Influence Game: Fiscal Compromise Is Fine, Groups Say, Provided Members Don't Share The Pain
A big coalition of business groups says there must be give-and-take in the negotiations to avoid the "fiscal cliff" of massive tax increases and spending cuts. But raising tax rates — a White House priority — is out of the question, the group adds. … And there's no ambiguity in the views of the top lobbying arm for retirees. "AARP to Washington: No cuts to Medicare and Social Security in last-minute budget deal" the group's Web site declares. … So much for the notion of shared sacrifice as Congress and the White House face a Dec. 31 deadline to craft a far-reaching deficit-reduction plan (11/26).

McClatchy: At Edge Of Fiscal Cliff, Everyone Fights To Protect His Bit Of Budget
As Washington debates how to trim runaway federal budget deficits without going over a "fiscal cliff" of immediate tax increases and automatic spending cuts, special interest groups are mounting aggressive campaigns to make sure that they’re not the ones who have to pay the price. Defense companies, health care providers, public broadcasting and even national parks enthusiasts are warning that cuts to their interests would cost jobs and hurt consumers. Some say that all entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security should be off limits. So, too, should be federal aid to education. And tax breaks for contributions to charity (Recio and Lightman, 11/26).

The New York Times: Trying To Turn Obama Voters Into Tax Allies
When Tea Party activists swamped town hall-style meetings about health care in the summer of 2009, President Obama's army of campaign volunteers largely stayed away, seemingly less interested in fighting for legislation than they had been in electing the nation's first African-American president. Now, Mr. Obama is seizing a second chance to keep his election-year supporters animated (Shear, 11/25).

ABC (Video): Sen. Dick Durbin: Medicare, Medicaid Fair Game In Talks To Avoid Fiscal Cliff
Sen. Dick Durbin said today that his Democratic colleagues in the House and Senate should be willing to address entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid in deficit reduction negotiations. "From my side of the table, bring entitlement reform into the conversation," Durbin said on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." "Social Security — set aside … doesn't add to the deficit. But when it comes to Medicare and Medicaid, protect the integrity of the program, but give it solvency for more and more years." But Durbin ruled out raising the age of Medicare eligibility as a potential reform (Stephanopoulos, 11/25).

National Journal: Medicare Competition Makes Bipartisan Comeback
After President Obama's reelection win, you might think that talk of competition in Medicare—a cornerstone of Mitt Romney's campaign—would fall by the wayside. But introducing greater competition into the health program for older Americans is an idea that could prove ripe for a bipartisan compromise in any "Grand Bargain" on the budget. The future of Medicare was a potent issue during the campaign, with Democrats and Republicans offering sharply different views. Romney and other Republicans pushed to have Medicare compete with private plans in an open marketplace, betting that consumers’ power of the purse would drive down the ever-growing costs of the program. Democrats strongly opposed that plan, saying it would not actually reduce spending and would instead end up costing seniors thousands more than the traditional Medicare coverage they have today (McCarthy, 11/25).

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