KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Battle Lines Change As Negotiators Appear To Drop GOP Efforts To Derail The Health Law

As the nation approaches its debt limit and the federal government remains shut down, a deal continues to be elusive.  

The Wall Street Journal: Senate Democrats Press New Front In Budget Battle
Senate Democrats have been strengthened by the sidelining, at least for now, of House conservatives, who dropped nearly all their major policy demands only to see Mr. Obama reject their proposal for ending the stalemate. With Senate leaders now negotiating, the fiscal battle focused for the first time in weeks on the budget itself, not on side issues that had dominated, such as the Republican demand that the 2010 health-care law be delayed or altered. Republicans who had opposed the GOP's "defund Obamacare'' strategy welcomed the return of interest to basic spending issues (Hook, 10/14).

Politico: Senate Remains At An Impasse
Monday will be critical. With financial markets fearful of a prolonged impasse, there is little margin for error before Thursday, when the Treasury Department warns the government will begin to run out of money and could fail to pay its bills for the first time in history. That possibility would intensify a budget crisis that started Oct. 1, when government agencies shuttered for the first time in 17 years because of lawmakers’ inability to pass a funding bill on time. It’s far from clear how the high-stakes fight will play out this week. Republicans have already dropped their push to gut Obamacare, which prompted the shutdown in the first place. But McConnell has yet to accept Democratic demands for higher spending levels for at least a portion of the current fiscal year (Raju and Kim, 10/13).

The Washington Post: Senate Leaders' Talks On Shutdown, Debt Limit Stall As Sides Await Market's Reaction
What started as a mad dash to strike a deal to lift the federal debt limit slowed to a crawl over the weekend as stalemated Senate leaders waited nervously to see whether financial markets would plunge Monday morning and drive the other side toward compromise. Republicans seemed to think they had more to lose. After talks broke down between President Obama and House leaders, GOP senators quickly cobbled together a plan to end the government shutdown — now entering its third week — and raise the $16.7 trillion debt limit. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) then asked Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) to elevate negotiations to the highest level (Montgomery and Helderman, 10/13).

The New York Times: Spending Dispute Leaves A Senate Deal Elusive
With a possible default on government obligations just days away, Senate Democratic leaders — believing they have a political advantage in the continuing fiscal impasse — refused Sunday to sign on to any deal that reopens the government but locks in budget cuts for next year. … Republicans once said that they would finance the government only if the president’s health care law was gutted. A bipartisan Senate framework drafted by Ms. Collins and Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, started with a face-saving move for Republicans of a repeal of a tax on medical devices that helps pay for the Affordable Care Act. When Senate Democratic leaders objected, that was tempered to a two-year delay of the tax (Weisman, 10/13).

Los Angeles Times: Government Shutdown Talks Hit Snag In Senate
The protracted stalemate has left Congress facing twin crises: Thursday’s deadline to raise the nation’s borrowing limit or risk a potentially catastrophic debt default, and a federal government shutdown that will enter its third week Tuesday. Republicans had hoped they could use the standoff to gain leverage in their fight with Democrats over the budget and President Obama’s healthcare law, but find themselves in a dramatically weakened position. They have failed to unify around a common negotiating position and face polls showing that the public by large margins blames them for the stalemate (Mascaro, 10/13).

The New York Times: Stuck On Usual Quarrel: Raising New Revenue
But even if the current talks soon resolve the immediate impasse, which did not look likely on Saturday, any renewal of negotiations for a long-term fiscal plan will run into the same underlying problem that has doomed efforts for the past three years. Republicans refuse to raise additional tax revenue, and until they do, Mr. Obama will not support even his own tentative proposals for reducing spending on fast-growing social benefit programs, chiefly Medicare. During a White House meeting with Senate Republicans on Friday, he reiterated that the two go hand in hand, according to people who were there (Calmes, 10/12).

Kaiser Health News: FAQ: What's At Stake If Congress Repeals The Medical Device Tax
As Republicans and Democrats have battled over reopening the federal government and raising the federal debt ceiling, one idea that keeps coming up is a repeal of the 2010 health law's tax on medical devices (Carey, 10/11).

Kaiser Health News also tracked weekend health policy headlines, including reports about the direction of congressional budget talks (10/13).

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