KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Workers, Employers, Elderly And Hospitals All Worried About Effects Of Fiscal Cuts

As negotiations drag on to cut federal debt, many groups are concerned about how potential changes in spending will affect them.

Kaiser Health News: 'If I'd Had To Wait Until 67 For Medicare, I'd Be Dead'
Sam Lewis turned 65 in the nick of time. For a year, he'd been broke. His Brentwood, Calif., general contracting business had gone bust. He couldn't make payments on his home, and lost it. He couldn't make payments on his health insurance, so he let it lapse. The day after his birthday in October, when he qualified for Medicare, Lewis got a checkup. Days later, he went under the knife: open-heart surgery, a triple-bypass, three arteries blocked with plaque, one of them, 99 percent. "If I'd had to wait until 67 for Medicare," Lewis said, "I'd be dead" (Mitchell, 12/18).

The New York Times: Hospitals Fear They'll Bear Brunt Of Medicare Cuts
As President Obama and Congress try to thrash out a budget deal, the question is not whether they will squeeze money out of Medicare, but how much and who will bear the brunt of the cuts. ... But any significant tinkering with the benefits for older Americans comes with significant political risks, and most Democrats in Congress strenuously oppose raising the age when Medicare coverage begins. With growing pressure to reach an agreement on deficit reduction by the end of the year, some consensus is building around the idea that the largest Medicare savings should come from hospitals and other institutional providers of care (Pear and Abelson, 12/18).

Politico: Chained CPI Foes: Seniors Get Raw Deal
Progressives say the latest deficit-cutting proposal in the fiscal cliff negotiations would unfairly put the squeeze on seniors — largely because a new formula for calculating Social Security payments would fail to account for how much more money they have to spend on health care than the rest of the population. And that unless the proposed Social Security payment cuts are offset for older, low-income seniors, they're worried that this vulnerable group could be forced into choosing between necessities — between housing, for instance, and medical care. "If we don't do this right, we could be asking old, poor elderly people to make some pretty terrible choices," said Jared Bernstein, former economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden and now a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (Norman, 12/19).

CQ HealthBeat: What's In Obama's Offer Of $400 Billion In Health Care Cuts?
President Barack Obama’s latest proposed fiscal cliff remedy includes $400 billion in health care cuts, according to sources familiar with the fiscal cliff negotiations. What are they? The White House hasn’t offered specifics, but according to a House aide, "most of it can be found by looking at the Center for American Progress report and the president’s budget." Those proposals would hit drug and medical devices hard, among other health sectors. The CAP report is better known as the "Senior Protection Plan." It cuts providers and product makers and charges affluent Americans more for Medicare Part B doctor care and the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit, among other things (Reichard, 12/18).

Los Angeles Times: Most Americans Benefit From Entitlements
Forget the 47%. A new study finds that 71% of Americans live in a household in which at least one member has benefited from one of the federal government’s major entitlement programs. The new data, based on a survey by the Pew Research center, underscore the wide reach of the spending programs that make up the lion's share of the federal budget. More than half of Americans (55%) have personally benefited from one of the government's six best-known entitlement programs, including 53% of people who voted for Mitt Romney in November’s election and 59% of those who voted for President Obama (Lauter, 12/18).

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