KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Obama Budget Likely To Reignite Talk Of Cost-Cutting Options

News outlets examine how the budget blueprint could address Medicare payments and also include other trims to the program.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Obama Budget Plan Revisits Small-Bore Budget Cuts That Have Proven Difficult To Pass
Efforts for a "grand bargain" on the budget between Obama and Congress have proven elusive, however, and stand-alone attempts to advance the proposals — including cutting farm subsidies and overhauling the Postal Service — have bogged down as well. At issue are dozens of longstanding options to trim the federal budget. They include eliminating direct payments to farmers even if they don't produce a crop and curbing $30 billion worth of Medicare payments over a decade to hospitals to reimburse them for patients who don't pay deductibles and copayments (4/8).

The New York Times: Critical Week in Senate for Gun and Immigration Bills
On the fiscal front, President Obama's budget release on Wednesday will add a third set of tax-and-spending plans to a Republican version that has passed the House and a Democratic one that passed the Senate. That should kick off talks to try to find some common ground and reach a deficit deal that would encompass changes to entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare and an effort to overhaul and simplify the tax code (Weisman and Steinhauer, 4/8).

NPR: The 'Hard-To-Change' Legacy Of Medicare Payments
The budget President Obama will send to Congress Wednesday is expected to include some $400 billion in reductions to Medicare and other health programs. And if the word around Washington is correct, it may also include a proposal aimed at winning some bipartisan backing – by changing the way Medicare patients pay for their care. But there have been previous efforts to streamline Medicare's antiquated system of deductibles and copayments. And none, so far, has been successful (Rovner, 4/9).

Roll Call: Health Advocates Push For Medicare Benefit Change
Health care stakeholders complain that some of Medicare’s benefit structure is still stuck in the 1960s, when the program was created. As lawmakers search for ways to reduce government spending, many are looking to find savings by bringing all of Medicare into the current century (Ethridge, 4/8).

Modern Healthcare: Medicare Cuts Expected In Obama Budget, But Not Big Structural Changes
Obama has signaled to federal lawmakers that he's open to making some significant Medicare policy changes to reduce the federal deficit, such as expanding means testing for higher-income individuals, combining hospital and physician services under one Medicare payment structure, or adding a surcharge to Medigap plans. But sources emphasize that the White House's openness to those structural-entitlement reforms are contingent upon congressional Republicans agreeing to tax increases in the broader deficit-reduction discussion (Zigmond, 4/8).

In related news -

The Wall Street Journal: Health-Care Costs: A State-By-State Comparison
Health-care spending in the U.S. averaged $6,815 per person in 2009. But that figure varies significantly across the country, for reasons that go beyond the relative healthiness, or unhealthiness, of residents in each state (Radnofsky, 4/8).

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