KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Medicare, Other Entitlements Hanging In Balance As Fiscal Cliff Talks Hit Wall

News outlets deconstructed some of the political activity that led to the current stalemate on the 'fiscal cliff' negotiations.

The Associated Press: Anti-Tax Conservatives Say No To Tax-Increase Deal
Although negotiations broke down last week, Obama still hopes to broker a larger debt-reduction deal that includes tax increases on high earners and Republican-favored cuts to entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security. If a compromise continues to prove elusive, lawmakers could pass a temporary extension that delays the cliff's most onerous provisions and gives Congress more time to work out a longer-term solution (Peoples, 12/23).

ABC News: 'This Week' Transcript
Sen. JOHNNY ISAKSON, R-Ga: "If we get down to the end of this year and the only choice we have is to save taxes going up on the middle class, then I would support that, but I wish we would have a comprehensive bill that dealt with spending, dealt with entitlements and dealt with taxes altogether. That's really what we ought to do."...
GROVER NORQUIST: "There is a plan to actually solve the debt that's been run up, the deficits that continue, the entitlement reform and tax reform to get more pro-growth tax reform, and that's the Ryan plan, which has actually been passed twice by the House of Representatives. People can talk --
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: No support in the Senate, no support from the president. It's not going anywhere.
NORQUIST: But the Democrats in the Senate haven't done a budget in three, four years, haven't put anything forward that deals with entitlements" (12/23).

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Seeks Bare-Bones Budget to Avoid Fiscal Cliff
President Barack Obama on Friday tried to break the capital's partisan budget impasse by urging congressional leaders to pass a stripped-down budget plan ... The move apparently postpones until next year the broad effort to set up a process to overhaul the tax code and to rein in spending for Medicare and other entitlement programs, in favor of focusing only on the most immediate fiscal deadlines at year's end. That narrower focus marks a setback for the president's ambitions, and it remains unclear if it would garner Republican support (Hook and Lee, 12/21).

Politico: Why Obama Isn't Caving
So far, he’s staked out a tough position, refusing to get too specific on spending and entitlement cuts, and threatening GOP leaders — whose popularity is tanking — with the bully pulpit of his inauguration and State of the Union speech. But many Hill Democrats, accustomed to seeing Obama give in, remain only cautiously optimistic. "So far, so good. [But] we’ll see how this shakes out," said a top Senate Democrat, who is queasy about the administration’s overtures to the GOP on entitlement reform (Thrush, 12/23).

The Washington Post: Congress Waits To See If McConnell Will Join 'Fiscal Cliff' Debate
For weeks, the effort to avert severe austerity measures has focused on talks between the president and the speaker [John Boehner]. Now that those talks have faltered, attention has turned to the Senate ... Not known for his patience, McConnell weeks ago decided to do what he often does — skip ahead to the last chapter — even as Boehner still reached for a deal with Obama. ... McConnell believed that Republicans would be better positioned to fight for more spending cuts and entitlement reforms in February, when Obama will be forced to seek another increase in the federal debt ceiling (Kane 12/22).

The New York Times: How Party of Budget Restraint Shifted to ‘No New Taxes,’ Ever
The federal budget, particularly spending on health care programs, is projected to grow rapidly as the country ages and as medical costs continue to rise, leaving Washington in need of more revenue. The party’s conservative wing wants to circumscribe those benefit programs, despite their popularity among voters. The goal of balancing the federal budget has all but vanished, replaced by the idea that deficits should be reduced to sustainable levels (Applebaum, 12/22).

The Hill: Conservatives Urge GOP Leaders To Be Bold, Prepare To Go Over Cliff
Conservative activists who helped doom Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) fiscal Plan B say Republicans must be prepared to go over the fiscal cliff to force President Obama to reach a deal .... Dan Holler of Heritage Action said that Republicans now need to sell Medicare premium support and other bold ideas to get them into a fiscal cliff solution. “When is the last time you heard Republicans make the case for Medicare premium support?" (Wasson, 12/23).

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