KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

House Passes Short-Term Spending Bill, But Bigger Budget Obstacles Remain

The measure, which now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature, will fund the government through September. Meanwhile, the Senate and House still have larger issues on the long-term budget, including conflicting views on funding levels for entitlements such as Medicaid.

The New York Times: House Passes Money Bill And Budget Blueprint
The House gave final approval on Thursday to legislation to keep government financed through September, and it also passed a Republican blueprint that enshrined the party's vision of a balanced budget that would substantially shrink spending, privatize Medicare and rewrite the tax code to make it simpler (Weisman, 3/21).

The Wall Street Journal: Tired Of Fights, Congress Passes Funding Bill
The spending bill keeps the government funded through the end of its 2013 fiscal year. It keeps overall spending to the level mandated by the sequester, the $85 billion in cuts that began March 1, despite strenuous efforts by Mr. Obama to replace them. The bill blunts the impact of the cuts in some areas such as military operations and maintenance, nutrition aid for women and children, and border security, but cuts deeper in other areas to make up for it. Republicans also blocked increased spending on top Obama priorities like health care and financial regulation (Hook, 3/21).

Modern Healthcare: Gov't Shutdown Averted; Sequester Cuts Remain
Federal lawmakers averted a government shutdown after the House of Representatives approved a $984 billion spending bill (PDF) that will keep the government operating through Sept. 30 and maintains the sequestration cuts that will hit Medicare providers starting on April 1. ... Meanwhile, the Senate version added more dollars for healthcare than the initial spending bill the House passed in March. For instance, the final bill added about $71 million for research under the National Institutes of Health. With both chambers approving the measure, it now moves to President Barack Obama's desk for his signature (Zigmond, 3/21).

Los Angeles Times: Republicans In Congress Shift Focus to Long Term
Sending President Obama a bill Thursday that averts a government shutdown, Congress proved that it can, in fact, function. Not long ago, this was considered an unlikely outcome. … Even as the House voted Thursday to fund the government for the next six months, Republicans also pushed through an austere budget plan that would balance revenue and spending in 10 years. Drafted by Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), the former vice presidential nominee, the proposal would overhaul Medicare and the social safety net, while dropping taxes for the wealthy and corporations. In the Senate, Democrats are expected to approve their own 10-year budget plan Friday that goes in the opposite direction (Mascaro and Memoli, 3/21).

The Washington Post: House Approves Resolution To Keep Government Running; Bill Heads To White House
Lawmakers are debating how much to tax and spend for the years to come. On Thursday, the House also approved a budget blueprint by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in a mostly partisan 221 to 207 vote. Ten Republicans joined House Democrats in opposing the Ryan budget measure. ... Democrats slammed Ryan’s plan as too austere — particularly its proposal to end Medicare as a guaranteed benefit for seniors. They said voters defeated that idea in the presidential election in November. ... In blunt terms, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) acknowledged Thursday that the path ahead is murky: Republicans are demanding reforms to reduce entitlement spending in exchange for increasing the debt ceiling — a position Democrats object to unless large tax revenue is included beyond the more than $600 billion in tax hikes approved New Year’s Day (Helderman and Rein, 3/21).

The Associated Press: Senate Democrats On Track To Pass Budget Protecting Safety Net And Raising Taxes
The nonbinding but politically symbolic measure would protect safety-net programs for the poor and popular domestic priorities like education, health research and federal law enforcement agencies from cuts sought by House Republicans, who adopted a far more austere plan on Thursday morning. … The dueling House and Senate budget plans are anchored on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum in Washington, appealing to core partisans in warring GOP and Democratic tribes long gridlocked over how to attack budget deficits. The GOP plan caters to tea party forces while Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash., crafted a measure designed to nail down support from liberal senators like Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who vehemently oppose cuts to safety net programs (3/22).

The Wall Street Journal: Sen. Warner Sees Greater Odds For Big Budget Deal
(Sen. Mark) Warner said one purpose of "new ideas"—both on taxes and on slowing Medicare spending—is "so people can get off their established positions" and agree to things without accepting proposals they have rejected in previous rounds of deficit talks. He also sketched out an approach to Medicare. He said a mechanism that sets a ceiling on Medicare spending as a percentage of gross domestic product would force Congress to change course if legislated changes to the program don't save as much money as forecast (Wessel, 3/21).

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