KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

In ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Talks, Medicare And Medicaid Savings Ideas Draw Scrutiny

The Wall Street Journal asks when cuts to these programs will start affecting beneficiaries and causing access issues. Other savings ideas face a burden of proof. Also, The Hill reports that the White House is cooling to the idea of $100 billion in Medicaid cuts floated earlier this year. In the background, news outlets offer reports about progress or lack thereof in averting the looming cliff.

The Wall Street Journal: Health Providers Watch Cliff Talks
Deficit-reduction negotiations have revived a long-standing question: How much can the government cut what it pays Medicare and Medicaid providers without directly affecting beneficiaries? (Radnofsky, 12/10).

Politico Pro: Dems' Challenge: Proving Their Medicare Ideas Save Money
It's getting harder and harder for members of Congress to sell deficit-cutting ideas without proof that they’ll work — and that’s a big problem for Democrats who believe they can fix Medicare without making deep cuts in the program. Democrats want to focus on making Medicare more efficient. But it’s extremely difficult for the Congressional Budget Office, Congress's official scorekeeper, to predict exactly how much money innovations like bundled payments and accountable care organizations will end up saving. It’s a lot easier for the CBO to score the long list of ideas touted by Republicans, who want to cut costs by doing things like raising the eligibility age or requiring wealthy seniors to pay more (Cunningham, 12/11).

The Hill: White House Drops Support For Major Medicaid Cut
The Obama administration backed away Monday from roughly $100 billion in Medicaid savings it had proposed during deficit-reduction talks earlier this year. The move comes as liberals have pressed the White House to take Medicaid off the table in negotiations surrounding the "fiscal cliff" — and it will make any agreement on entitlement spending about $100 billion harder to reach. The Health and Human Services Department (HHS) said the Obama administration no longer supports a plan to combine the various calculations used to determine the federal government's share of Medicaid spending (Baker, 12/11).

Los Angeles Times: A Prayer As 'Fiscal Cliff' Talks Continue
Lawmakers returned to Washington as President Obama and House Speaker John A. Boehner continued negotiations to swerve around the so-called fiscal cliff of tax hikes and spending cuts in the new year. The president and congressional Republicans remain far apart, but the silence coming from the White House and the speaker's office after a meeting Sunday between the two principal negotiators was seen by many observers as a breakthrough of sorts. … Obama wants to extend existing tax rates for all but those at the top-2% income level, but Republicans are pushing to continue lower tax rates for all, including couples earning more than $250,000 a year, or singles bringing in $200,000 a year. Republicans also want spending reductions in popular safety-net programs, including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, in exchange for any new tax revenue (Mascaro, 12/10).

The Wall Street Journal: Obama-GOP Cliff Talks Take Positive Turn
Both sides still face sizable differences before any agreement might be reached by the end of the year, and talks could well falter again over such controversial issues as taxes and Medicare before any deal is reached. The people familiar with the matter say talks have taken a marked shift in recent days as staff and leaders have consulted, becoming more "serious" (Paletta and Lee, 12/11).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Cliff Talks: No Progress Evident As Each Side Demands Specifics From The Other; Deadline Ahead
A year-end deadline approaching, quiet negotiations to avoid an economy-rattling "fiscal cliff" yielded no tangible signs of progress on Monday as Republicans pressed President Barack Obama to volunteer spending cuts he will support while the White House insisted the GOP endorse higher tax rates on upper incomes (12/10).

Los Angeles Times: Obama And Boehner Seem To Get Along, Politics Is The Problem
After weeks of private phone calls and public posturing, the Ohio Republican quietly ducked into the White House on Sunday for his first one-on-one meeting with the president since mid-2011. The goal this time: forging a deal to avoid $500 billion in tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect in early January (Hennessey and Mason, 12/10).

The New York Times: In Talks, House Majority Weighs Loyalty To Voters
As their leaders inch toward agreeing to higher tax rates, dozens of House Republicans find themselves caught between the will of a larger American public that favors higher taxes on the rich and the wishes of constituents who re-elected them overwhelmingly to oppose the Obama agenda at every turn (Weisman, 12/10).

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