KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

GOP Focus Remains Tight On Reforming Medicare, Entitlement Programs

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has made clear his determination to address this issue - The Wall Street Journal is reporting that he has even assured President Barack Obama that he will give him "cover" if he makes a proposal to cut entitlement spending.

The Wall Street Journal: GOP Aims To Tame Benefits Programs
House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday that he's determined to offer a budget this spring that curbs Social Security and Medicare, despite the political risks, and that Republicans will try to persuade voters that sacrifices are needed (Bendavid and Hook, 3/4).

The Hill: Boehner Promises Obama GOP Cover On Entitlement Reform
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has privately assured President Obama that House Republicans will not attack him if he makes a proposal to reform entitlement spending, according to sources familiar with the offer. Moreover, Boehner has personally promised Obama that he will stand side-by-side with him to weather the strong political backlash expected from any proposal to cut entitlement costs. So far, Obama has not taken Boehner up on the deal, as Democratic strategists have warned the White House not to cut payments from the Social Security trust fund or to reopen the acrimonious debate over health care. Social Security reform has been prominent in behind-the-scenes talks about entitlement spending because it is relatively easy to reduce its cost projections - at least, compared to the complex morass of health care policy reform (Bolton, 3/3).

Kaiser Health News: GOP House Budget Chairman Ryan Pushes Medicare Vouchers
Kaiser Health News staff writer Marilyn Werber Serafini reports: "House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan vowed Thursday to include aggressive reforms of Medicare in the budget proposal he is beginning to craft. Ryan reiterated his controversial idea to issue vouchers to beneficiaries" (Serafini, 3/3).

Los Angeles Times: Taking A Scalpel To The Health Care System
Social Security now doles out more money in benefit checks than it takes in from taxes, and its trust fund is projected to run out of cash in about 26 years. So this is a good model for health care reform? Yes, indeed, says Philip Bredesen, a former health insurance executive who just completed two terms as Tennessee's governor (Lazarus, 3/3).

But public understanding continues to be limited regarding the budget process and how funds are provided to Medicare and other entitlement programs, as well as related cost issues:

The Washington Post: The Fact Checker: Four Pinocchios For The American Public On The Budget
Yet another depressing survey was released this week that attests to the failure of most Americans to understand the basics of the federal budget - and why there is a soaring budget deficit. Respected Republican pollsters Ed Goeas and Nicholas Thompson reported that 63 percent of those surveyed believe the federal government spends more on defense and foreign aid than it does on Medicare and Social Security (Kessler, 3/3).

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