Today’s Headlines – Oct. 27, 2011

Good morning! Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations, featuring details of the super committee’s latest action — the Dems’ $3 trillion debt deal, which includes a $400 billion Medicare plan; and the GOP counter approach.

The Washington Post: Congressional Democrats Offer $3 Trillion Debt Deal
Congressional Democrats are urging the debt-reduction supercommittee 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).

For more headlines …
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/Washington Post: Congressional Supercommittee Democrats, Republicans Far Apart On How To Cut Federal Deficits
Republicans on Congress’ deficit-reduction supercommittee 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 supercommittee 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).

USA Today: Deficit Panel Doubtful Discretionary Cuts Will Make Dent
The congressional “supercommittee” 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).

Politico: Competing Supercommittee 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).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Top Republicans Urge Federal Health Officials To Use Moratoriums To Fight Medicare Fraud
Nearly one year after receiving powerful new authority to impose moratoriums that would prevent potentially fraudulent Medicare providers from joining the program, federal health officials have yet to impose a single one, according to top Senate Republicans. Under the Affordable Care Act, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services was granted broad power to impose moratoriums in regions where fraud is rampant or for certain types of providers such as medical equipment or home health care, sectors where billions of Medicare fraud dollars have been lost (10/26).

The New York Times: Lawyer Opposing Health Law Is Familiar Face To The Justices
At the moment, he is defending both Arizona’s tough new law against illegal immigration and Congress’s prohibition against interstate recognition of same-sex marriages. And if, as expected, the Supreme Court soon announces that it will hear a challenge to last year’s health care law, it seems increasingly likely that it will be Mr. Clement who argues, in the thick of the 2012 campaign, that President Obama’s signature domestic achievement is unconstitutional (Sack, 10/26).

Politico: Health Care Reform Review Decision Could Come On Nov. 10
The Supreme Court could decide Nov. 10 whether it will review President Barack Obama’s health care reform law this term. The Obama administration and five opponents of the law are asking the court to review whether the law’s requirement that all Americans buy insurance is constitutional. Five of the six pending requests have been sent to the justices ahead of the November conference, at which the justices will decide which cases it will accept (Haberkorn, 10/26).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Health Care Cases On Supreme Court Justices’ Agenda For Nov. 10 Closed-Door Meeting
The Supreme Court could decide as early as Nov. 10 whether to hear a challenge to President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul this term. Federal appeals court rulings on health care from Atlanta, Cincinnati and Richmond are on the agenda for the justices’ private conference on Nov. 10 (10/26).

Politico: Mitt Romney May Be Haunted By Massachusetts Health Care Costs
Mitt Romney’s health care albatross isn’t just the similarity between his Massachusetts health care overhaul and President Barack Obama’s health reform law. It’s also the fact that Massachusetts still has the highest health costs in the country — even after the reforms Romney signed into law as governor (Haberkorn, 10/26).

Los Angeles Times: WellPoint Profit Drops Even As Revenue Grows
Health insurance giant WellPoint Inc.’s profit dropped 7.6% in the third quarter compared with the same period last year even though enrollments and revenues rose. The nation’s largest insurer by membership and parent of Anthem Blue Cross in California earned $683.2 million in the three months that ended Sept. 30, down from $739.1 million in the year-earlier period (Helfand, 10/26).

The Washington Post: Calif. Gov. Brown To Seek Higher Employee Pension, Health Care Payments
Gov. Jerry Brown will propose sweeping rollbacks to public employee pension benefits in California, including raising the retirement age to 67 for new employees who are not public safety workers and requiring state and local employees to pay more toward their retirement and health care, according to a draft of the plan obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press (10/27).

The Wall Street Journal: State Seeks Help To Cut Cost Of Chronically Ill
The governor of Massachusetts wants to hire private insurers or other third parties to manage care for the poor and chronically ill patients who use a disproportionate share of public health-care dollars. The proposal comes as state and federal officials search for a cheaper way to deliver health care to people known as “dual eligibles.” These are the 9.2 million in the U.S. who receive both Medicare, the federal program for those 65 and older or disabled, and Medicaid, the joint state-federal health plan for the poor (Levitz, 10/27).