KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Deficit Panel Dems Advance ‘Grand Bargain’ Plan

As Republicans and Democrats on the congressional super committee swapped plans to reduce the federal deficit, the ideas they advanced demonstrated that the parties remain at odds over increasing taxes and making deep spending cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.

The Washington Post: Congressional Democrats Offer $3 Trillion Debt Deal
Congressional Democrats are urging the debt-reduction super committee to pursue a far-reaching agreement to slice $3 trillion from the federal budget over the next decade through significant cuts to federal health programs, including Medicare, and as much as $1.3 trillion in new taxes. At a closed-door meeting Tuesday, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) told his colleagues on the panel that they should pick up where President Obama and House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) left off in negotiations this summer during a bitter battle to raise the federal debt limit, according to congressional aides in both parties familiar with the meeting. Obama and Boehner were discussing a plan that included provisions to raise taxes, raise the Medicare eligibility age and use a less generous measure of inflation to calculate Social Security benefits (Montgomery and Helderman, 10/26).

The New York Times: Democrats' First Offer: Up To $3 Trillion For Debt
The committee is charged with cutting budget deficits by a total of at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years. The Democratic plan would trim much more, a total of $2.5 trillion to $3 trillion, through cuts in the growth of federal entitlement programs, including Medicare, and more than $1 trillion in new tax revenues. The proposal, which came after weeks of silence, has virtually no chance of winning approval from Republicans on the committee, who have repeatedly said they would not accept a package that included tax increases (Pear and Steinhauer, 10/26).

Los Angeles Times: Democrats On 'Super Committee' Propose A 'Grand Bargain'
"Super committee" Democrats proposed a "grand bargain" of spending cuts and new taxes to reduce deficits, picking up Wednesday where President Obama and House Speaker John A. Boehner broke off this summer, as the panel has four weeks left to strike a deal (Mascaro, 10/26).

The Associated Press: Congressional Super Committee Democrats, Republicans Far Apart On How To Cut Federal Deficits
Republicans on Congress’ deficit-reduction super committee outlined a plan Wednesday that includes spending cuts but none of the increases in tax revenue sought by Democrats, completing an initial exchange of offers that left the two sides far apart despite weeks of secret talks. Officials also said a Democratic proposal on Tuesday and the GOP counter-proposal 24 hours later both included a provision to slow the annual cost-of-living increases in future Social Security benefits, suggesting it could become part of any compromise that might emerge (10/26).

The Wall Street Journal: Parties Trade Deficit Plans
Republicans and Democrats on the congressional super committee Wednesday swapped ambitious plans to reduce the federal deficit but remained at odds over the core question of whether a major tax increase should be included as well as significant spending cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, according to congressional aides. Although each side flatly rejected the other's, the proposals could set the parameters for further negotiations. And there were glimmers of common ground that could help build the framework of a deal (Hook and Boles, 10/27).

Kaiser Health News: Health On The Hill: Super Committee Dems Ready A $400 Billion Medicare Plan
In this Kaiser Health News interview, Jackie Judd speaks with Politico Pro's Matt DoBias about the super committee's public hearing Wednesday when it heard from Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf. Democrats on the panel are near a $2.5 trillion to $3 trillion proposal to cut the deficit that includes about $400 billion in cuts to Medicare, though what the specific cuts might entail is still a bit of a mystery (10/26).

Politico: Competing Super Committee Plans Reveal Chasm
Each party assumes hundreds of billions of dollars in savings from federal health-care programs for the elderly and poor, as well as additional cuts from appropriations, already hit under the August budget accord. But Republicans continue to balk at any major commitment to new taxes, and the result is the GOP’s $2.2 trillion package is about a third less than the Democrats’ offer, which assumes $1.3 trillion in new tax revenues over the next 10 years (Rogers and Sherman, 10/26).

CQ HealthBeat: Half-Trillion More In Medicare, Medicaid Cuts? We Can Do That, Baucus Says
Lobbyists were scrambling Wednesday to pry loose details about how a surprisingly big package of Medicare and Medicaid cuts proposed by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus would hit the health industry — including to what extent, if any, the cuts might be used to fix Medicare's doctor payment formula. The size of the cuts proposed Tuesday by Baucus, D-Mont., in deficit negotiations — $500 billion in Medicare and Medicaid over 10 years, according to congressional aides — stirred speculation about whether a "doc fix" might be included. According to one participant at the negotiating session, the $500 billion did not include funding for a solution to the Medicare physician payment problem. But Baucus did mention that it could be included later (Reichard, 10/26).

The Hill: House Democrats Would Reject Deficit Super Committee Medicare Benefit Cuts
A group of House liberals is already pushing back after reports emerged Wednesday that fellow Democrats on the super committee have proposed hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare benefit cuts. "I don't want to hear Democrats suggesting that we have those types of cuts in Medicare," said Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), former chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. "I hope that's not true" (Lillis, 10/26).

Reuters: Democrats Seek Up To $3 Trillion Savings
Democrats are proposing to slash huge budget deficits by up to $3 trillion, aiming high to repair the country's fiscal mess even as Republicans show early signs of resisting the proposals. The broad package of measures calls for long-term spending cuts, including to the government-run Medicare health program for the elderly that threatens to explode the national debt. The other half of the package would come from tax increases, four congressional aides told Reuters on Wednesday. Republicans rejected the Democratic initiative (Cowan and Smith, 10/26).

USA Today: Deficit Panel Doubtful Discretionary Cuts Will Make Dent
The congressional "super committee" seemed skeptical that discretionary budget cuts could do much to help meet their $1.5 trillion deficit-reduction goal, even as they held a rare public hearing Wednesday to discuss the 40% of the budget that goes to non-entitlement spending (Korte, 10/26).

ABC: Details Of Dem Proposal Leak Out Of Super Committee, GOP Rejects Tax Increases
Democrats have proposed a framework for the Super Committee that multiple aides confirm is around $3 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade through a cocktail of cuts to entitlements, including Medicare, and as much as $1.3 trillion in new tax revenues. Democratic aides close to the negotiations confirmed that at a closed-door meeting Tuesday, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., presented a plan on behalf of a majority of the Democrats on the 12-member panel. He urged the committee to resume where President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner left off in negotiations on a so-called Grand Bargain, which included a balanced plan to raise new tax revenue, increase the Medicare eligibility age and use a more stingy method to calculate inflation and determine Social Security benefits (Parkinson, 10/26).

Meanwhile, a new ad campaign has been launched and a new study offers insights about how Medicaid cuts would impact the health system -

National Journal: Health Care Coalition Launches Print, TV Ad Campaign
The Coalition to Protect America's Health Care today kicked off a multi-week ad campaign asking people to tell Congress to preserve Medicare funding for hospital care. The campaign, a multi-million dollar buy, warns that Medicare cuts will hurt the most vulnerable populations by reducing the number of nurses and increasing hospital wait times. There are television, print and online ads. The TV ads will be on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and local affiliates in the Washington area, and the print ads will appear in Politico and Roll Call (Joseph, 10/26).

Reuters: States May Lose Big In Jobs, Funds If Medicaid Cut
Cutting Medicaid by 5 percent would cost U.S. states $14 billion and trigger job losses in the tens of thousands by depressing spending by states, hospitals, nursing homes, drug companies and others, a study said on Wednesday. ... Economists say spending by Medicaid, the state-federal health plan for the poor, disabled and elderly, buoys local economies because it not only flows to health care providers — and their employees — but pulls in new federal dollars because the U.S. government matches how much a state spends (10/26).

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