KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: July 8, 2011

In today's headlines, reports that budget negotiators are setting their sights on a "grand debt deal" -- a concept that is causing some Democrats concern regarding how safety net programs will fare.

Kaiser Health News: NY Health And Hospital Corp's President Welcomes The Health Law's Promise, But Sees 'A Very Clear Downside' For Public Hospitals – The KHN Interview
Kaiser Health News staff writer Shefali S. Kulkarni recently spoke with Alan Aviles, the president and CEO of the largest municipal health care system in the U.S. Aviles is struggling to meet the medical needs of the poor and uninsured while facing deepening budget woes (Kulkarni, 7/7). Read the interview.

The New York Times: Still 'Far Apart' On Debt, 2 Sides Will Seek Broader Cuts
Democrats and Republicans are confronting not only tough choices about how to balance spending cuts and higher taxes, but how best to sell such a package, which would probably challenge basic philosophical tenets of each party, to their rank-and-file members. … With the White House and the lawmakers promising not to divulge details of the talks, the specifics of an eventual deal were not yet clear. But Mr. Obama has put popular entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security on the table, while Speaker John A. Boehner has signaled for the first time his openness to up to $1 trillion in new revenues (Landler and Hulse, 7/7).

Los Angeles Times: Negotiators Consider Grand Bargain On Taxes And Benefits
At issue are hundreds of billions of dollars a year in taxes and government spending. If the largest deal under discussion is agreed to, it could reshape the government's fiscal picture for years to come, with large political implications for both parties. Among the proposals being discussed are a change in the way cost-of-living increases are calculated for Social Security; an increase in the payments that upper-income seniors make for Medicare; an overhaul of the corporate tax system; elimination of a variety of tax breaks that primarily benefit upper-income taxpayers; and significant cuts in the military budget, farm programs and other domestic spending (Mascaro and Parsons, 7/7).

The Wall Street Journal: Sights Set On Grand Debt Deal
President Barack Obama and congressional leaders agreed Thursday to strive for a blockbuster deficit-reduction deal and will spend the weekend determining whether political support is possible for a sweeping plan to curb entitlements and make major tax-code changes (Lee, Hook and Bendavid, 7/8).

The Washington Post: Obama Calls Debt Talks 'Constructive,' Invites Parties To Reconvene Sunday
Obama and Boehner have emerged as the most enthusiastic proponents of a big deal that would save as much as $4 trillion over the next decade by overhauling the tax code and tackling all the major drivers of federal spending, including the Pentagon and health and retirement programs. But such a plan would be complicated both politically and substantively, and aides said Senate leaders in both parties are skeptical that such a deal could come together in the next few days (Montgomery and Kane, 7/7).

The Wall Street Journal: Entitlement Cuts Divide Democrats
Senior White House officials believe a bipartisan deal that cuts spending while ending narrow tax breaks would boost Mr. Obama's standing with independent voters, help his claim to be a "postpartisan" problem solver and buoy his re-election chances. … Some Senate Democrats, facing tough re-election bids in Republican-leaning states share similar feelings. But many House Democrats see cuts to entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security as fundamentally undermining their plans to retake control of the House (Weisman, 7/8).

The New York Times: Democrats Oppose Talk Of Cuts To Social Security
Congressional Democrats, who have thrived for decades as guardians of Social Security, said Thursday that they were not ready to surrender that role to help President Obama get a deal on federal spending and the debt limit. As word spread that Mr. Obama was considering large savings from the use of a different measure of inflation to reduce the annual cost-of-living adjustment in Social Security benefits, Democrats joined with lobbyists for older Americans to reject the idea. … Republicans are concerned about the growth of entitlement programs, including Social Security and Medicare. Some, like Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, support the idea of an alternative measure of inflation, known as the chain-weighted version of the Consumer Price Index, because they believe it is more accurate. But the party, waiting to see details, has not taken an official stand (Pear, 7/7).

Politico: Entitlements Talk  Spooks Dems
Across the Capitol on Thursday, Democrats openly fretted about the potential reforms to Medicare and Social Security now at the center of President Barack Obama's talks with congressional leaders to slash $4 trillion in exchange for raising the national debt ceiling (Raju and Sherman, 7/8).

NPR: The Politics Behind The Debt-Ceiling Drama
The president is already getting excoriated by progressives alarmed at White House willingness to put entitlement program cutbacks on the table. And Republican House Speaker John Boehner, who has met privately with the president in recent days to lay groundwork for a deal, faces the seemingly insurmountable task of selling tax loophole eliminations that some in his caucus view as tantamount to tax increases (Halloran, 7/7).

Politico: GOP's IPAB Rhetoric Backlash
As Republicans prepare to turn up the heat next week on health care reform's controversial independent Medicare advisory board, some provider groups are worried that the GOP's harsh rhetoric could ruin the chances that Democrats will help the repeal effort. Republicans have set up the Independent Payment Advisory Board as the next health care reform target they hope to pick off, and there's reason to believe the effort could garner significant support from Democrats (Millman, 7/8).

The Wall Street Journal: Panel Offers A Budget Plan To End Minnesota Stalemate
An independent panel created by former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale and ex-Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson called for spending cuts and tax increases to end Minnesota's budget crisis, which stretched into its seventh day Thursday. State government shut down July 1 after Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and Republicans who control the legislature were unable to agree on how to close a $5 billion gap in the two-year budget. Mr. Dayton wants to raise income taxes or find other new revenue sources, in part to shore up the state's health-care budget. Republicans argue that no new revenue is needed (Merrick, 7/8).

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