KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Health Care And The Shakeout From The Fiscal Cliff

News outlets parse the particulars of how the fiscal deal will impact the health care system, and how the health industry is bracing for the next rounds in the budget battles.

Kaiser Health News: Behind The Fiscal Cliff Deal, A Prolonged Hospital Finance Fight
After Congress' fiscal cliff deal this week dug into hospitals' pockets to avert a drop in Medicare payments to physicians, industry associations screamed. The president of the American Hospital Association said the reductions — nearly $15 billion over a decade — "will make it harder for patients to access the care they need." The president of the Federation of American Hospitals also said patients would suffer because lawmakers had decided to "rob hospital Peter to pay for fiscal cliff Paul" (Rau, 1/3).

The Hill: Public Hospitals Seek To Ward Off Cuts
The lead advocate for public hospitals is already making the case that safety-net providers cannot sustain cuts as part of a deficit-reduction deal this spring. Bruce Siegel, who leads the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems, congratulated lawmakers and the White House for avoiding the worst effects of the "fiscal cliff" (Viebeck, 1/3).

Kaiser Health News: Rural Hospitals Get Relief In Fiscal Cliff Deal
While much of the hospital industry has lamented the deal reached between Congress and the White House because it will pay about half the $30 billion bill to avert a 27 percent Medicare fee cut for physicians, the agreement was cause for celebration for about 200 small, rural hospitals. That’s because it also extended for one year a program that pays hospitals such as Jones Memorial up to several millions of dollars each year because they have fewer than 100 beds, are located in rural areas and treat a high proportion of Medicare patients (Galewitz, 1/4).

NPR: Bargain Over Fiscal Cliff Brings Changes To Health Care
The bill that prevented the nation from plunging over the fiscal cliff did more than just stop income tax increases and delay across-the-board spending cuts. It also included several provisions that tweaked Medicare and brought bigger changes to other health care programs (Rovner, 1/4).

Politico: Health Care Guide To Debt Limit Battle
Congress's most recent spending battle left the health industry with some nicks and scratches, but it's leery of having to hand over even bigger savings in the next battle looming two months from now. From hospitals to doctors to insurers to drug makers, industry players are expecting they'll come up in the mix as lawmakers search for ways to pay for another deal to avert sequestration and increase the debt limit (Haberkorn and Cunningham, 1/3).

In the background, controversial ways to find savings continue to percolate -

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Health Beat: In Health Care, An Rx For Deficits?
Relief over the new federal budget deal has turned to cynicism almost overnight, with many saying that Washington has merely kicked its problem down the road. But Jonathan Gruber, a respected health economist from MIT, suggests there's a solution down that road -- if Congress is willing to tackle health policy for the second time in three years. His suggestion: Change the tax deduction that employers get for offering their workers health insurance. Lawmakers have long considered it untouchable, for fear they would jeopardize a system that provides 60 percent of Americans with their health insurance. Along with the mortgage-interest deduction, it's one of the biggest and most popular federal tax breaks (Hage, 1/3).

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