KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Super Committee Stalled As Nov. 23 Deadline Approaches

The panel's top Republican said Thursday the main obstacle to a deal is Democratic insistence that tax increases be coupled with reforming health care programs.

Los Angeles Times: Tax Issues Stall Deficit Committee As Deadline Nears
Deadlock. Impasse. Cooling-off period. Call it what you will, but the congressional super committee on deficit reduction has again stalled out after a flurry of proposals this week from Republican and Democratic members as the Thanksgiving deadline approaches. But the stalemate revolves around the issues that have stunted such efforts all year: Republicans are unwilling to agree to the scale of new revenues Democrats insist are needed to get their agreement to cut Medicare and other domestic spending and entitlement programs (Mascaro, 11/10).

Politico: Super Committee Tries To Salvage $1T Deal
It all adds up to major obstacles ahead of the super committee's Nov. 23 deadline to propose $1.2 trillion in budget savings. Failure could shake confidence in world markets and spark automatic cuts across the federal government starting in 2013. Talks about restructuring the so-called trigger of spending cuts has grown more serious in recent days (Sherman and Raju, 11/10).

Politico: Super Committee Chair 'Not Giving Up Hope'
Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the top Republican on the deficit super committee, said Thursday the main obstacle to a deal is Democratic insistence that tax increases be coupled with reforming health care programs. At the same time, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) dismissed the latest GOP offer as a "phony deal" and said that he was not encouraged by the progress of the talks (Sherman and Raju, 11/10).

The Wall Street Journal: Activist's Antitax Pledge Looms Large In Debt Talks
Mr. Norquist isn't shy about trying to influence the 12-member super committee as it looks for $1.2 trillion in deficit savings over 10 years. When Republicans recently presented a plan that would raise money by capping tax deductions, Mr. Norquist tweeted that it was an "idiot idea." On Thursday, he co-wrote a piece in Politico addressed to the super committee that was headlined, "The answer is: spend less. Period." Republicans and Democrats have offered plans in recent days. Each has been dismissed by the other side, but they have some common elements. The GOP proposal would cut spending by $700 billion and raise revenue by $500 billion, including $250 billion from limiting tax breaks. Democrats question whether trimming tax breaks would really generate that much (Bendavid, 11/11).

The Hill: Super Committee Dems' Proposed Cuts To Health Law Fund Draw Fire
Public health advocates immediately pushed back Thursday after a Democratic proposal to slash the health care law's Prevention and Public Health Fund became public. Super committee Democrats have proposed cutting the trust fund by $8 billion, more than half the $15 billion set aside for the fund in its first 10 years. Republicans call the program a "slush fund" because it gives the Secretary of Health and Human Services broad latitude to grant awards. The Trust for America's Health announced Thursday after the proposed cuts were made public that it has so far collected signatures from 704 public health groups on a letter defending the fund (Pecquet, 11/10).

The Associated Press: Deficit Super Committee Hits Rough Patch
The committee's co-chairs met privately, and each said afterward — without evident optimism — that the negotiations were continuing. "Nobody walked away, nobody," Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., told reporters, disputing statements to the contrary from some Republicans. Asked whether the panel was stalled, she said, "I would absolutely not say we are stalled. I would not use that word at all." Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, Murray's Republican counterpart, went out of his way to compliment Democrats for negotiating in good faith, and also to praise President Barack Obama for identifying escalating health care costs as the principal force behind huge deficits (Espo, 11/10).

WBUR's CommonHealth blog: Local Hospitals Fear Super Committee Cuts
Massachusetts hospitals, some of the state's largest employers, are preparing for the worst as the federal deficit super committee looks to make cuts in Medicare. The local hospitals say the cuts could hurt doctor training programs, among others. The Massachusetts Hospital Association is out with a new analysis that shows that one year cuts in the program could reach hundreds of millions of dollars. Over 10 years, that number could reach into the billions (Bebinger, 11/10). 

In other Capitol Hill news —

The New York Times: Senate Approves Two Pieces Of Jobs Bill
But lawmakers saw little evidence of such cooperation in the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, which is supposed to vote on its final recommendations by Nov. 23. A co-chairman of the committee, Representative Jeb Hensarling, Republican of Texas, broke his silence on the panel's internal deliberations on Thursday and assailed Democrats as intransigent. Mr. Hensarling said that Republicans had made "a major concession" by proposing tax increases, and he asserted that Democrats had not reciprocated by proposing major cuts in the growth of benefits programs like Medicare and Medicaid (Pear and Steinhauer, 11/10).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Senate Kills GOP Jobs Plan Cutting Tax Rates, Repealing Health Care Law And Other Regulations
A divided Senate has voted to kill a Republican plan that would cut income tax rates, repeal the new health care law and block or overturn dozens of environmental, labor and energy rules. The 56-40 vote was mostly along party lines (11/10).

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