KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Obama And Congressional Leaders Hold New Debt Talks

President Barack Obama and the Democratic and Republican congressional leaders met at the White House today seeking to hammer out a deal on the nation's debt limit.

The Washington Post: No Hints Of Breakthrough In White House Debt Talks
A day after debt-reduction talks collapsed, congressional leaders held a brief emergency meeting at the White House on Saturday to try to work out a deal with President Obama that would avert a potentially catastrophic U.S. credit default in 10 days. Efforts to raise the legal limit on government borrowing were thrown into chaos Friday after House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) abandoned talks with the White House in what he said was a dispute about taxes. After meeting for less than an hour on Saturday, the congressional leaders were told to report back to the White House by 5 p.m. on whether they will be able to reach an agreement, according to a person familiar with the talks (Montgomery, Kane and Merle, 7/23).

Politico: Boehner Wants Debt Ceiling Plan By Sunday
House Speaker John Boehner hopes to avoid roiling Asian financial markets by announcing progress by 4 p.m. Sunday on a smaller deal to raise the debt ceiling and cut spending, he told colleagues on a Saturday afternoon conference call. Boehner said he's still trying to squeeze out multiple trillions of dollars - between $3 trillion and $5 trillion. ... But there was no sign that the parties had resolved their differences (Budoff Brown and Sherman).

News outlets reported earlier on the breakup of the debt negotiations Friday.

The New York Times: Debt Ceiling Talks Collapse As Boehner Walks Out
The speaker said Mr. Obama wanted to raise taxes too high and would not make "fundamental changes" to entitlement benefit programs like Medicare. But according to a White House official, Mr. Obama had agreed over the coming decade to cut $250 billion from Medicare spending and $310 billion from other domestic entitlement programs, like farm subsidies and education programs. And Mr. Obama was willing to change the formula for Social Security cost-of living adjustments, which many economists say would more accurately reflect inflation, for savings of about $125 billion more (Calmes and Hulse, 7/22).

Politico: Debt Talks Break Down
"The deal was never reached, and was never really close," the speaker wrote in a letter to House members released at 6.p.m-after the financial markets had closed. ... Yet even as the letter was going out Friday evening, Obama walked into the White House briefing room to declare that Boehner had walked away from "an extraordinary deal." ... Indeed, despite Boehner's disclaimer, the outlines of a $3 trillion plus deficit reduction package had been in place including what would have been substantial savings in Medicare and more than $1 trillion from appropriations over the next decade (Rogers, 7/22).

National Journal: Republican Debt Talks With White House Off; Obama Angered
In dueling press conferences, Obama and Boehner argued passionately over who was to blame and why. "This was an extraordinarily fair deal," Obama said. "If it was unbalanced, it was unbalanced in the direction of not enough revenue. It is hard to understand why Speaker Boehner would walk away from this kind of deal." ... Boehner appeared in the Capitol and accused Obama of "moving the goal posts" and undermining a tax deal that would have included $700 billion in new revenue (derived from lower and flatter rates, not tax increases) over 10 years. "Dealing with the White House is like dealing with a bowl of Jell-o," Boehner said (Garrett, 7/22).

The Washington Post: Debt Drama Boils Down To Tale Of Two Men
The deal, as envisioned by the two sides, would work in two steps. A relatively simple bill, short enough to hammer out in the next week, would have raised the debt ceiling and cut spending in the near term. Then, Congress would have to work out broader changes to the tax code and huge entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security. Among the ideas that seemed to be agreed upon: ... $250 billion in savings from Medicare. These might have been achieved by altering premiums for some programs, reducing payments to hospitals, and raising the eligibility age from 65 to 67 over time (Fahrenthold and Montgomery, 7/22).

Politico: Phone Tag And Wrong Numbers: The Collapse Of The Debt Talks
There were just a few outstanding issues, senior administration officials said. Republicans had proposed rolling back portions of Obama's prized health care law if Congress failed next year to enact the entitlement and tax changes. Obama, however, wasn't going for it. They needed to come to terms on depth of the cuts to Medicaid. And Obama had wanted an additional $400 billion raised through tax reform, arguing that Boehner was bleeding Republican support and would need to bring more House Democrats on board (Budoff Brown, 7/23).

Los Angeles Times: How The Obama-Boehner Debt Talks Collapsed
Republicans thought they needed a trigger to ensure that Democrats stayed at the table and didn't simply let the Bush tax cuts lapse. The GOP proposal: If tax reform did not occur, the administration would lose key portions of its new healthcare law, including the mandate that all Americans have health insurance. The White House dismissed this provision as a nonstarter. "We didn't think that it was appropriate that political trophies would be part of the budget discussions," said a senior White House aide (Nicholas and Mascaro, 7/22).

The Hill: White House: Before Boehner Walked, Debt Deal Was Close At Hand
On Medicaid, the differences were minuscule, an administration source said. And the two sides were not apart at all on Medicare, the other health entitlement that has been a part of the discussions. "On Medicare, we were identical," the official claimed, saying the president had agreed with Republicans on eligibility, cost-sharing, premiums and other facets of the program. Republicans also raised the possibility of getting rid of the controversial Independent Payment Advisory Board, which was included in the healthcare reform law, a White House official said. Administration officials indicated strong opposition to including the individual mandate in a deficit reduction bill. They claimed that was a new ask from the GOP that was not tackled during the talks led by Vice President Biden earlier this summer (Cusack and Youngman, 7/22).

CBS News: John Boehner Walks Away From Debt Talks 
"In the end, we couldn't connect. Not because of different personalities, but because of different visions for our country," Boehner said in a letter to colleagues. He said Mr. Obama "is emphatic that taxes have to be raised" and "adamant that we cannot make fundamental changes to our entitlement programs." ... Boehner and the president have been seeking a "grand bargain" of perhaps $4 trillion in deficit reduction, but have faced stiff resistance from lawmakers in both parties (Montopoli, 7/22).

NPR: History Shows Medicare Can Be Cut While Sparing Beneficiaries
"Any cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid should be taken off the table," the Congressional Progressive Caucus wrote in a letter to the president. "These cuts would hurt households and damage the country's economic recovery as well." But most of the outrage assumes - incorrectly - that any cuts would necessarily be aimed directly at Medicare patients. History suggests otherwise (Rovner, 7/22).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.