KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Fiscal Cliff Talks Moving Slowly; Boehner Wants Health Law On Table

The New York Times: Seeking Ways To Raise Taxes But Leave Tax Rate As Is
The Congressional leaders had said that aides would provide concrete ideas by Wednesday on deficit reduction targets through revenue increases and changes to social programs, especially Medicare. White House and Congressional staff members did meet early this week, but no such ideas were produced. Democrats want Republicans to first define what they mean by "structural changes" to Medicare and Medicaid. Republicans say Mr. Obama should make the first move (Weisman, 11/22).

The Associated Press: Fiscal Cliff: How To Judge If Debt Cuts Are Real
Raising money from higher rates, closing loopholes or a combination of the two would create real revenue for the government. The problem is many tax deductions and credits , such as for home mortgages and the value of employer-provided health insurance, are so popular that enacting them into law over objections from the public and lobbyists would be extremely difficult. ... A serious agreement should specify how much savings would come from entitlements, meaning those big, costly benefit programs such as Social Security and Medicare (Fram, 11/24).

The New York Times: Boehner's Rearguard Guerrilla Action
No one thought it would be easy for President Obama and Republicans in Congress to negotiate a package of tax increases and spending cuts over the next few weeks. But now Speaker John Boehner is trying to make the process even harder. In an op-ed article for the Cincinnati Enquirer today, Mr. Boehner said that "we need to repeal Obamacare" because it adds to the debt and is unaffordable. As a result, he wrote, "the law has to stay on the table as both parties discuss ways to solve our nation's massive debt challenge" (Firestone, 11/21).

Christian Science Monitor: Is Obamacare On Table For 'Fiscal Cliff' Talks?
Democrats, unsurprisingly, see things otherwise. The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein quotes an administration official saying this is something President Obama opposes. A top Senate Democratic aid calls the idea “absolutely” a nonstarter, according to Mr. Stein. The reality is that aspects of Mr. Obama’s health reforms likely will be discussed when negotiations over the so-called “fiscal cliff” heat up. But another reality is that Obamacare is now the law of the land, and isn’t going to be repealed or changed in any major way as a result of a final fiscal deal (Grier, 11/23).

The Hill: Boehner: 'ObamaCare' Must Be On The Table In 'Fiscal Cliff' Negotiations 
[Boehner] also praised Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) for refusing to implement a state-based insurance exchange, but neglected to mention that the choice invites the federal government to operate Ohio's exchange. "I’m proud of our governor and lieutenant governor for taking this stand and resisting the federal takeover of health care in Ohio" (Baker, 11/21).

ABC News: Boehner Wants 'Obamacare' In Fiscal Cliff Negotiations
The Speaker argued that the President’s healthcare law is too expensive and that any serious deal to tackle the deficit should include talks of a full repeal. "If we're serious about getting our economy moving again, solving our debt and restoring prosperity for American families, we need to repeal Obamacare and enact common-sense, step-by-step reforms that start with lowering the cost of health care," said Boehner (Ono, 11/21). 

The Washington Post: Polls Offer Little Guidance For Politicians Tackling 'Fiscal Cliff'
On Tuesday, Fix the Debt, a new bipartisan campaign led by business leaders and former policymakers, released a poll taken just before the election in which 72 percent of likely voters said the deficit and federal debt would be extremely or very important in deciding their vote. More than 90 percent of likely voters agreed that a bipartisan agreement, with “everything on the table,” was needed to address the problem. But three major unions put out a survey that appeared to show exactly the opposite: People would prefer that politicians focus on job creation over cutting deficits, and they oppose cuts to Social Security, Medicare, education, and police and fire protection to address deficits (Helderman and Clement, 11/22).

The Wall Street Journal: 'Fiscal Cliff' Debate Hits Airwaves
The election ad wars are over. The "fiscal cliff" ad wars are just beginning. ... In one ad from a campaign that calls itself Defend My Dividend, somber music plays while a couple at a kitchen table frets ... The 15% top tax rate on shareholder dividends is set to rise in January to 43.4%—the top marginal income-tax rate plus a surcharge that helps pay for President Barack Obama's health-care law. ... Some groups are pushing to overhaul entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Others are trying to prevent just that (Reddy, 11/23).

The Washington Post: After Election Euphoria, Liberals Begin To Worry About The Political Fights To Come
The focus of their distress is none other than Obama, who many left-leaning Democrats fear will go too far in reaching an accord with Republicans on the "fiscal cliff." Liberal groups are gearing up media campaigns aimed at pressuring Obama and congressional Democrats to hold the line on proposed GOP cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlement programs (Turque, 11/21).

Politico: Saxby Chambliss Takes Aim At Grover Norquist
Sen. Saxby Chambliss took aim at Americans for Tax Reform head Grover Norquist on Wednesday, telling a local television station he’s not worried about a potential primary challenge if he votes to raise taxes. “I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge,” said Chambliss, who signed Norquist’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” when he first ran for Senate. ... Norquist said: “If he plans to vote for higher taxes to pay for Obama-sized government he should address the people of Georgia and let them know that he plans to break his promise to them" (Robillard, 11/24).

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