KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Automatic Budget Cuts Lead GOP To Sharpen Focus On Medicare Cost-Cutting

With the deadline for averting sequestration having come and gone, lawmakers and the White House are jockeying for position in the next round of budget battles.

The New York Times: Seeking Compromise, President Reaches Out To The Rank And File
Appearing immediately before him on the program, Speaker John A. Boehner reinforced his opposition to any deal to reverse the cuts in military and domestic programs -- $85 billion this year and nearly $1 trillion over 10 years -- that includes raising new revenue. But he did leave open a narrow path to a comprehensive budget agreement that could restore at least some of the money at some point. Mr. Boehner said Mr. Obama had already raised nearly $1 trillion to finance his health care program and, in January, won $650 billion from tax increases on high incomes. (Weisman, 3/3).

The New York Times: As Automatic Budget Cuts Go Into Effect, Poor May Be Hit Particularly Hard
The $85 billion in automatic cuts working their way through the federal budget spare many programs that aid the poorest and most vulnerable Americans, including the Children's Health Insurance Program and food stamps. But the sequestration cuts, as they are called, still contain billions of dollars in mandatory budget reductions in programs that help low-income Americans, including one that gives vouchers for housing to the poor and disabled and another that provides fortified baby formula to the children of poor women (Lowry, 3/3).

The Los Angeles Times: Republicans Revisit Medicare Reform To Cut Spending
Fired up as once-unimaginable spending cuts start to slice the federal budget, Republicans are launching a new phase in their austerity campaign -- resurrecting the party's cost-cutting plan to turn Medicare into a voucher-like system for future seniors. Despite public uncertainty Saturday about the $85 billion in so-called sequester cuts, Republicans now believe they have momentum to ask Americans to make tough choices on Medicare, as rising health care costs combine with an aging population to form a growing part of future deficits (Mascaro and Memoli, 3/2).

The Medicare NewsGroup: Automatic Cuts Are Underway: A Primer On Sequestration And The Impact On Medicare
Doctors, hospitals, insurers and other health care providers will be subject to the cuts starting April 1. Some parts of the government are subject to bigger cuts, while others, such as Medicaid, are exempt. But if a deficit reduction deal is eventually reached it could still result in cuts to Medicare. Providers may not escape unscathed in such a deal and it could have a direct impact on beneficiaries. President Obama is open to increasing the Medicare Part B and D premiums paid by higher-income beneficiaries, while House Speaker John Boehner proposed raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65- to 67-years-old during the fiscal-cliff standoff last December (Sjoerdsma, 3/1).

CBS News: With Sequester In Place, What's Next?
The government is not going to shut down on March 27, lawmakers from both parties are assuring their constituents, three days after an axe dropped indiscriminately across the federal budget leaving millions of jobs and government-funded projects in flux. It's a mad scramble to save face following yet another failure by Congress in recent years to avert a budget crisis, but it comes with a stipulation: To agree on a drama-free measure to fund the government through the remainder of the fiscal year, legislators are unlikely to include in the deal a replacement package for sequestration, despite pressure from all sides to do so (Boerma, 3/4).

Meanwhile, local sources continue to report on the cuts' impact-

Denver Post: Sequester Means Cuts To Colorado Health, Medical Programs
Sequestration will pare millions of dollars from Colorado Medicare payments, medical research, pure lab science and doctor education in coming months, local health officials said Friday. As a result, there could eventually be longer waiting times for elderly hospital patients, fewer childhood vaccinations, and roadblocks for groundbreaking research proposals (Booth, 3/2).

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