KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Shutdown Commentaries: Compromise May Take Nick Out Of Health Law; ‘The Party Of Gimme’

The New York Times: The Senate Tries To End The Crisis
But the tentative agreement includes two problematic provisions related to health care reform. One would require the Department of Health and Human Services to verify that people receiving subsidies for insurance have incomes low enough to qualify. The other would delay for a year an insurance-company tax imposed by the health care law, which gives the tax proceeds to insurance companies covering high-risk patients through state exchanges, reducing their financial burden (10/14).

The New York Times' Taking Note: The Party Of Gimme
Republicans insisted on winning something in exchange for performing those two necessary acts [of reopening the government and staving off a default]. Democrats refused to let that happen, informing Republicans that if they wanted to negotiate, it would require both sides to give up something substantial. Preventing default doesn't count. It's amazing that after weeks of listening to President Obama make clear this principle, Republicans still don't get how important it is. In the days before the shutdown, Democrats rejected every demand the House made to damage health care reform in exchange for keeping open the government. Eventually, the House dropped its health-law demands, but remained locked into the notion that they had to get something out of this crisis, to "put points on the board," in Speaker John Boehner's extremely unfortunate phrase (David Firestone, 10/14).

Los Angeles Times: A Health Care History Lesson For The GOP
Two different narratives have been at play in Washington lately to explain what caused the government shutdown. In the first, House Republicans are to blame for trying to hold Democrats and the president hostage over a law that was duly passed by Congress. In the other, Democrats are to blame for their rigid refusal to compromise on Obamacare. But there's a part of the story that seemingly has been lost in history: Democrats have already compromised on health care reform by adopting Obama/RomneyCare in the first place (Jane Mansbridge, 10/15).

The Wall Street Journal: Strange Political Devices
Democrats are smelling blood amid the latest polls, and one of their political goals is getting the GOP to ease the sequester caps. ... [S]ome conservatives have become so politically disoriented by this debate that they are now opposing tax cuts too. The issue is the tax on medical devices that is one of the smaller funding sources for Obamacare. There's bipartisan sentiment for repealing it, but some conservatives are now saying no. Repeal would amount to "corporate cronyism," said Michael Needham of the Heritage Action political committee. ... A think tank that really believes that repealing a punitive tax on business is "corporate cronyism" isn't conservative and it certainly isn't thinking (10/13).

The Washington Post: Obama Can't Waste This Moment
Democrats have been much tougher in this round of negotiations than they were in the past not only because the GOP vastly overreached in trying to gut Obamacare, but also because they know how important it is to insist that budget cutting and deficit reduction not be the sole priority of the political class. Rep. Paul Ryan (who was, by the way, the other member of the Republican ticket that lost last year, partly because of his budget ideas) hoped to steer the talks in this direction. But Democrats have made it clear that it's not 2011 anymore (E.J. Dionne Jr., 10/13).

Politico: A Subtle Solution To Debt Dilemma
There is a logical compromise staring both parties in the face. ... In exchange for raising the debt ceiling and opening the federal government, Obama should offer to cap the annual growth in federal health care spending at inflation, plus 1 percent or 2 percent. ... The key is that such a deal would give both sides what they want. Obama keeps his health care law, and Republicans get to say they prevented it from bankrupting the country. And after all, if Obamacare's boosters are correct that the law will significantly restrain future health spending, it’s a compromise that will cost the president nothing. If, on the other hand, the ACA cost projections prove overly optimistic, then legislators will have to tweak the law -- and Medicare and Medicaid -- to impose additional spending discipline (Charles J. Wheelan and Russell J. Muirhead, 10/14).

Politico: The Case For Hostage Taking
There is little incentive for Democrats to trade significant entitlement reform for tax increases when mandatory spending increases outlays without the need to pass legislation with a majority of Congress. Once the money is spent, the GOP can only borrow to delay tax increases or acquiesce and increase taxes now. Republicans’ focus on defunding or scaling back Obamacare -- an unpopular entitlement program -- rather than entitlements generally, namely Social Security and Medicare, has raised questions about their true objective. But critics forget that spending is fungible. For any level of taxation, growth in one program crowds out spending on other programs. Cost reduction is simply a matter of priorities. Republicans value preserving Medicare and avoiding tax increases over expanding Obamacare (Edward Conard, 10/14).

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