KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

After Partisan House Budget Vote, Obama And Coburn Dispute Medicare’s Future

News outlets covered today's presidential and Republican weekly addresses, which reflected a week of tough deficit talk and a vote in the House on the 2012 budget.

Politico: Barack Obama: GOP's Deficit Plan 'Wrong For America'
Echoing the message he delivered in a major speech earlier in the week, President Barack Obama on Saturday said cutting the federal budget will require sacrifices from every American, but that those people who are most economically vulnerable shouldn't shoulder most of the burden (Lee, 4/16).

ABC News: Obama Pushes His Budget, Calls GOP Plan 'Wrong for America' 
[Obama said] that his "balanced approach" to getting the country back on track is the best way forward, rather than the GOP's cuts to health care and "job-creating" education. "It's a vision that says that in order to reduce the deficit, we have to end Medicare as we know it, and make cuts to Medicaid that would leave millions of seniors, poor children, and Americans with disabilities without the care they need," Obama said (Dolak and Parkinson, 4/16).

The Associated Press: Obama: GOP Budget Vision 'Is Wrong For America'
Still, Obama predicted in an interview with The Associated Press on Friday that fundamental questions about how to change giant benefit programs like Medicare and Medicaid or how to change the tax system might have to wait until after the 2012 presidential elections. ... while Obama, in the interview, predicted a "smart compromise," his address Saturday left little room for common ground with the House Republican budget (Kuhnhenn, 4/16).

Oklahoman: Obama, Coburn Offer Competing Visions Of Deficit Reduction 
[Sen. Tom] Coburn, R-Muskogee, countered in the Republican response that Obama has failed to put a serious deficit plan on the table.  ... "As leaders we have a moral obligation to tell the country the truth. The truth is, we could face a serious debt crisis sooner than anyone expects. We face an unsustainable debt and unsustainable entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security - all of which will collapse if they're not reformed" (Casteel, 4/16).

Los Angeles Times: House Republicans Unite Behind Budget Vote
Braced for a possible political backlash, House Republicans charged forward with their plan to slash deficit spending by scaling back Medicaid and overhauling Medicare while still cutting taxes, putting themselves on a collision course with President Obama and Democrats. All but four Republicans voted Friday to support the 2012 budget resolution crafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.). No Democrats supported the plan, which passed on a 235-193 vote (Hennessey and Mascaro, 4/15).

The New York Times: House Approves Republicans Budget Plan To Cut Trillions
House Republicans on Friday muscled through a budget plan that pares federal spending by an estimated $5.8 trillion over the next decade while reshaping Medicare in a proposal that immediately touched off a fierce clash with Democrats. ... On the House floor, Democrats ridiculed the notion that Mr. Ryan's $3.5 trillion plan for next year was somehow bold for zeroing in on health programs despite political risks. They accused Republicans of promoting a morally skewed vision of America by taking savings out of medical care for older Americans and the poor while supporting tax breaks for corporate America and the affluent(Hulse, 4/15). 

Roll Call: GOP Budget Passes House Without Democrats
But only four Republicans voted against it in the end - Reps. Ron Paul (Texas), Denny Rehberg (Mont.), Walter Jones Jr. (N.C.) and David McKinley (W.Va.). Rehberg is preparing for a race against incumbent Sen. Jon Tester (D), and the elderly are a powerful voting bloc in the sparsely populated state. ... In a statement on his vote, Rehberg specifically cited the changes to Medicare, saying "there are still too many unanswered questions with regard to Medicare reform, and I simply won't support any plan until I know for a fact that Montana's seniors will be protected" (Stanton, 4/15). 
 
The Wall Street Journal: GOP Passes Budget Cut
The House budget plan would cut $771 billion from Medicaid over the next 10 years, and calls for the program to be transformed into a system of payments to states that give state governments more discretion and flexibility. Medicare would be cut $30 billion over 10 years. ... In his most dramatic proposal, Mr. Ryan's plan would end Medicare's benefit guarantee in favor of having seniors choose among private health plans. The U.S. would subsidize the premium payments with an average payment starting at $8,000. That subsidy wouldn't be guaranteed to keep pace with the rate of health care inflation, leaving beneficiaries potentially to face growing out-of-pocket costs. Mr. Ryan said changes of such magnitude were needed because Medicare is now unsustainable with the retirement of the baby-boom generation (Hook and Bendavid, 4/16). 

CBS News: Obama faces some Democratic opposition to Medicare plan
Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) on Friday released a statement announcing her support for the Medicare Decisions Accountability Act, a Republican bill that repeals the portion of the health reform package that creates the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). .. [IPAB] is intended to be an independent, non-partisan commission of doctors and other health experts to oversee the costs of Medicare. The Obama administration has argued that the board will play a critical role in keeping health care costs down. Critics of the new board such as Sarah Palin have said the board will use "'death panel'-like rationing." In her statement today, Schwartz said she condones repealing the IPAB because it is the role of Congress to determine Medicare policies (Condon, 4/15). 

The Hill: House Democrats' defections threaten Obama's Medicare advisory board
Schwartz isn't the first Democrat to sign onto Rep. Phil Roe's (R-Tenn.) IPAB repeal bill: Reps. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) and Larry Kissell (D-N.C.) jumped on board last month. But her timing and prominence - Schwartz is a healthcare reform champion and vice chairwoman of the New Democrat Coalition - makes hers the most prominent Democratic defection so far. The move adds to already serious doubts that Obama will be able to garner enough votes to strengthen the IPAB, as he proposed in his deficit speech Wednesday (Pecquet, 4/15).

Related KHN story: Berwick Says Obama's Plan To Trigger Medicare Cuts Won't Be Necessary (Jaffe, 4/15)

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