KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

As Part Of ‘Expansive’ Agenda, Obama Offers Support For ‘Modest’ Medicare Reforms

In last night's State of the Union address, President Barack Obama offered his take on how the U.S. budget could achieve "fiscal stability" through a mix of Medicare cuts and tax increases; however, he provided few details of what changes to Medicare he found acceptable.

The New York Times' News Analysis: In An Age Of Spending Cuts, Making The Case For Government
In setting out how government could reach what he considers an acceptable level of fiscal stability through Medicare cuts and tax increases, Mr. Obama was doing more than trying to set the terms for the next, fast-approaching rounds in his fiscal cage match with Congressional Republicans (Stevenson, 2/13).

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Urges Action On Expansive Agenda
Mr. Obama repeated his earlier calls for reducing the budget deficit through a mix of tax increases and spending cuts. He also said he would support "modest reforms" in programs including Medicare, as long as wealthy Americans contribute as well (Nicholas and Nelson, 2/12).

Modern Healthcare: Obama Address Light On Details For Reforming Medicare
In the first State of the Union address of his second term, President Barack Obama acknowledged the biggest driver of the nation's long-term debt is the rising cost of healthcare for an aging population, but proceeded to offer very few specifics on the type of Medicare reforms he's willing to make to sustain the decades-old federal program. Vowing to "reignite the true engine of economic growth—a rising, thriving middle class," the president said that task must start with making basic decisions about the nation's budget, which in turn will have a significant impact on the economy. He reiterated his earlier stance that broad-based economic growth needs a balanced approach to deficit reduction that includes both spending cuts and additional revenue (Zigmond, 2/13).

Medscape: State Of The Union Addresses Medicare Reform, Gun Control
In his fifth State of the Union address tonight, President Barack Obama spoke mostly as a Job Creator in Chief, Deficit Reducer in Chief, and Commander in Chief, but he took a few minutes to put healthcare policy on his second-term agenda, including the public health issue of gun violence. "What I’ve said tonight," said Obama, "matters little if we don’t come together to protect our most precious resource — our children." Shortly after the school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, Obama proposed a ban on military-style assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, universal background checks in gun sales, higher spending on mental health services, and other measures aimed at reducing gun violence (Lowes, 2/12).

The Washington Post: Obama: Limited Cost-Cutting For Medicare
When it came to Medicare, Obama reiterated his determination to accept only limited cost-cutting proposals. Among the ideas he appeared to reference was requiring pharmaceutical companies to charge Medicare the lower rates they currently receive from Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for the poor (Aizenman, 2/12).

The Washington Post: Fact Checker: Medicare Reform
Using Congressional Budget Office estimates of the president’s budget, we see that over 10 years, Obama's proposals would achieve $337 billion from 2013 to 2022, compared to $483 billion for Bowles-Simpson in the same time period. (Bowles-Simpson, or more accurately the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, is considered by many in Washington to be the model for a bipartisan approach for deficit reduction.) However, in 2022, both would achieve exactly the same amount of savings — $68 billion (Kessler, 2/12).

Medpage Today: State Of The Union: Health Savings Proposed
Having wealthier seniors pay higher Medicare premiums and reducing taxpayer subsidies to drug companies are just a few of the ways the federal government can lower its healthcare spending, President Obama said during his State of the Union address Tuesday evening. In a speech light on health care mentions, Obama also mentioned doing away with a fee-for-service Medicare reimbursement system and replacing it with one that rewards quality. The president said he was willing to enact reforms "that will achieve the same amount of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission." President Obama has already proposed reforms that will save $340 billion in healthcare spending over the next decade, the White House noted on its website (Pittman, 2/13).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Health Figures Big In State Of The Union Guest List
Five of the 24 people invited to sit near First Lady Michelle Obama at tonight’s State of the Union have strong health care connections. They include a governor, a business owner and a beneficiary of the health law provision that prevents health plans from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions" (Galewitz, 2/12).

The Medicare NewsGroup: Why Democrats And Republicans Can't Agree On Medicare Reform
At the National Academy of Social Insurance’s annual meeting, a pair of influential Democratic and Republican strategists agreed that the presidential election failed to provide any clear mandate for changes or reforms to the Medicare and Social Security programs. They also shared a belief that neither party offered specific solutions during the campaign, so the bitter political struggles over these issues continue. NASI is a nonpartisan think tank dealing with Medicare and Social Security. … There seems scant chance for any bipartisan agreement on managing the future of Medicare and Social Security because the party differences are so great, the opposing party strategists concurred (Rosenblatt, 2/12).

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