KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

President Obama’s Budget: Medicare Means Testing And Lower Drug Costs

The budget proposal includes a provision to make wealthier seniors in Medicare pay more as well and another to try to drive down the cost of prescription drugs. A rival Republican plan is also expected to propose cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.

Los Angeles Times: Obama Issues A Campaign-Ready Budget Proposal
Obama's current plan would cut the deficit by adjusting the way the government means-tests Medicare, requiring higher premiums for some wealthy seniors. He would include measures to force down the cost of prescription drugs, which also reduces federal spending, and would count on the deficit-reducing impact of his proposed immigration reform measure (Hennessey and Parsons, 3/4).

The Associated Press: Obama’s Budget: Election-Year Themes To Rally Dems
The Obama budget projects a 2015 deficit of $564 billion and a shortfall this year of $649 billion. If those come true, it would mark three straight years of annual red ink under $1 trillion. … Overall, the 2015 budget projects a $250 billion increase in spending over the record $3.65 trillion expected for the current year. Spending actually dropped to $3.46 trillion in the 2013 fiscal year completed last Sept. 30. Republicans instead want Obama to join them in taking on expensive benefit programs like Medicare and Social Security, whose growth is driving future deficits and squeezing other priorities like defense, education, transportation and research. Medicare costs are projected to almost double over the coming decade. … The plan relies on tax increases and modest spending cuts such as curbing payments to Medicare providers to bring the budget deficit to sustainable levels of below 2 percent of the size of the economy by 2023 (Taylor, 3/4).

The Washington Post: Obama Sends $3.9 Trillion Budget Plan For Fiscal 2015 To Congress
Congress will again be required to address the federal debt limit next March. Lawmakers will face the prospect of full-strength sequester cuts in fiscal 2016 and beyond. And after three years of rapidly declining, deficits once again will begin to rise in 2016, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, creating new concern about the sustainability of federal health and retirement programs as the American population ages (Goldfarb, 3/4).

Los Angeles Times: Republicans Draw Election-Year Battle Line Over Obama Budget
House Republicans have promised to respond with their own 2015 budget proposal, even though their document, and the president's, are largely theoretical exercises this year. Thanks to a budget accord reached in December between [Republican Rep. Paul] Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), his counterpart in the Senate, spending levels for this year and next have already been approved by Congress and signed into law. Ryan's budget is expected to revisit his ideas for cutting Medicaid and Medicare, including his own signature proposal to cap health care spending for the next generation of Medicare recipients with a voucher program (Mascaro, 3/4).

And an up-close look at the budget for the Department of Health and Human Services -

The Associated Press: Health Care Agency Passes $1 Trillion Milestone
President Barack Obama’s budget pushes Health and Human Services spending over $1 trillion for the first time, reflecting an aging population adding to the Medicare rolls, as well as expanded coverage for younger people through the new health law. Released Tuesday, the HHS budget for the 2015 fiscal year calls for just over $1 trillion, which budget officials said is a new milestone for the department (Alonso-Zaldivar, 3/4).

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