KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

GOP Plans For Medicare, Health Reform Repeal Draw Scrutiny

Political observers are noting challenges for Republican lawmakers in upcoming budget, health law and Medicare debates. And some Democrats in the Senate are being pressured on the issue of keeping one of the health law's safeguards for slowing Medicare's costs.

CNN: Fights Brewing Over House Republicans' Budget
[Lawmakers are] about to engage in yet another fight that could risk a government shutdown in the fall. That would add to the fiscal hurricane set to hit right after Nov. 6. That's when the lame duck Congress must decide what to do about the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the Medicare "doc fix" on the eve of deep, automatic spending cuts that nobody wants. For next week, though, the focus will be on the House Republicans' 2013 budget proposal put out by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (Sahadi, 3/17).

The Associated Press/The Boston Globe: GOP Prepares For Budget Battle As Rep. Ryan Drafts New Blueprint
Budget Committee chairman, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is fashioning a sequel to last year's "Path to Prosperity" manifesto that ignited a firestorm over Medicare. The upcoming debate gives Republicans a chance to show how they would tackle out-of-control budget deficits and rein in the cost and scope of government. ... Last year's GOP measure proposed replacing Medicare fee-for-service payments to doctors and hospitals with a voucher-like program in which the government would subsidize purchases of health insurance on the private market. (Taylor, 3/17).

MSNBC: In Risky Election-Year Move, Republicans Offer Medicare Alternatives
Running a political risk during an election year, Republicans continue to offer proposals to cut future Medicare outlays. The latest offering came on Thursday from a quartet of fiscally conservative Republican senators. The group proposed replacing the current open-ended, fee-for-service Medicare with enrollment of seniors in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan (FEHBP) which offers an array of privately-run health insurance plans. Members of the group include Rand Paul of Kentucky, Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Mike Lee of Utah (Curry, 3/15).

The Hill: GOP Split On Health-Law Repeal Strategy
The push to repeal the Medicare cost-cutting board, once seen as an easy way to force House Democrats to buck the president, has turned into yet another headache for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). ... The debate echoes conservative attacks against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who came under blistering criticism earlier this month after he told his conference that he would focus on gas prices and the economy instead of pushing for more repeal bills that are going nowhere in the Senate. In response, the conservative Restore America's Voice Foundation threatened to "unleash" its 2.3 million activists to call for McConnell's resignation if he didn't retract his comments. After the threat was issued, McConnell vowed to make March "Repeal ObamaCare Month" (Pecquet, 3/16).

Meanwhile, The Hill also notes that some Democratic senators may be feeling pressure on an important provision of the health law.

The Hill: Vulnerable Senate Dems Don't Rule Out Voting Against Obama Cost-Control Board
Several Senate Democrats up for reelection tell The Hill they haven't ruled out bucking President Obama by voting to repeal the health law's cost-control board. The House is expected to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board next week, putting pressure on the Senate to follow suit (Pecquet, 3/17).

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