KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Obama Uses Budget To Inch Closer To ‘Grand Bargain’ With GOP

The budget blueprint, released Wednesday, includes what the president called "manageable" curbs on Medicare spending growth, but GOP congressional leaders were dismissive, while some Democrats were unsettled.

The Washington Post: Obama Releases A Budget Plan With A Simple Goal: Ending The Debt Standoff
But barely five months after winning a decisive reelection victory, Obama proposes nothing on the scale of the $1.2 trillion initiative to extend health coverage to the uninsured that he pursued after taking office in 2009. Instead, with sharp automatic spending cuts threatening to slow the economic recovery and another showdown over the federal debt limit looming this year, the blueprint establishes a budget deal with Republicans as Obama's top fiscal priority. For the first time, he is formally proposing to trim scheduled Social Security benefits — a GOP demand that is anathema to many Democrats. He is also offering to make meaningful reductions in Medicare benefits, including higher premiums for couples making more than $170,000 a year (Montgomery, 4/10).

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Reaches For Middle Ground With New Budget Plan
President Barack Obama took a political gamble Wednesday by proposing to curb the growth of Social Security and Medicare, hopeful that the concessions would draw rank-and-file Senate Republicans into a budget deal that has so far proven elusive. … Congressional Republican leaders mostly dismissed the package and described it as a nonstarter because of proposed tax increases. But other Republicans said it contained measures that could show promise (Paletta, 4/10).

The New York Times: Health Care And Military Spending Bear The Brunt Of Proposed Cuts
President Obama's effort to control federal spending would require the largest cuts from the government's biggest programs — health care and the military — while preserving or increasing spending on favored initiatives like early education, manufacturing and research. … The budget would require $57 billion in higher payments by Medicare beneficiaries, cut $306 billion in projected Medicare payments to health care providers and squeeze $19 billion out of Medicaid, the program for low-income people (Pear and Shanker, 4/10).

The Wall Street Journal: Social Security, Medicare Face Hits
As President Barack Obama's new budget indicates, the two political parties actually have agreed in the last two years to some significant steps to reduce deficits down the road. One big question is whether the budget points a way toward restraining the largest long-term drivers of the deficit, which are government entitlement programs, particularly for health care. The White House says its budget blueprint represents a good start down that path by offering proposals to curb the growth of Social Security, Medicare and other federal benefits programs (McKinnon and Radnofsky, 4/10).

Los Angeles Times: Obama Says His Budget Has 'Manageable' Cuts To Entitlement Programs
President Obama argued for "manageable" changes to Medicare and other social safety net programs as he released his budget proposal, a plan aimed at staking out the middle ground in the stalled deficit reduction talks. "If we want to preserve the ironclad guarantee that Medicare represents, then we're going to have to make some changes. But they don't have to be drastic ones," Obama said in remarks in the Rose Garden on Wednesday morning. "… Obama's remarks intended to draw a contrast with House Republicans' budget proposal, fashioned by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, which would balance the federal budget in 10 years in part by transforming Medicare into a voucher-style system and cutting government spending on Medicaid (Hennessey and Mascaro, 4/10).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Obama's Budget Seeks GOP Cooperation On Deficit Deal While Hoping To Keep Faith With Democrats
Obama's stated goal is otherwise, namely that his $3.8 trillion budget should lead to the completion of a slow-motion grand deficit-cutting bargain by offering to save billions from programs previously sheltered from cuts. Medicare, Social Security and even military retirement are among them. Perhaps to reassure Democrats unsettled by this approach, the president said his offer to trim future benefit increases for tens of millions of people is "less than optimal" and acceptable only if Republicans simultaneously agree to raise taxes on the wealthy and some businesses (4/11).

California Healthline: How Much Should We Care About Obama’s Budget?
While the White House's budget proposals since the Affordable Care Act have mostly tinkered around the edges of the health care system, Wednesday's budget request contains $370 billion in new Medicare savings. … Some of these proposals aren't new, or explicitly draw on Republican ideas. Obama had floated Medicare means-testing in his debt negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner last year, in hopes of reaching a compromise over the deficit ceiling. And other provisions are seen as the fulfillment of political promises (Diamond, 4/10).

The New York Times: Obama Budget Opens Rift For Democrats On Social Benefits
President Obama's new budget has opened a debate over what it means to be a progressive Democrat in an age of austerity and defines him as a president willing to take on the two pillars of his party — Medicare and Social Security — created by Democratic presidents (Calmes, 4/10).

National Journal: Progressives Fight Obama On Entitlements With Eye On 2014
For progressive Democrats in Congress, a fight with President Obama over the inclusion of cuts to Social Security in his budget proposal may be just a warm-up for the real looming battle: the 2014 midterms. Defending the entitlement program has long been a pillar of the Democratic Party, and it’s one that lawmakers say they cannot ignore (Kaplan, 4/10).

The New York Times: Budget Embodies Obama's Vision For Remaking Economy
To pay for a series of programs he deemed crucial to the future and reduce the long-term budget deficit, Mr. Obama also called for cuts to Social Security and Medicare, putting him at odds with many other Democrats. They instead see those programs, created by previous Democratic presidents, as sacrosanct (Lowry and Rich, 4/10).

The Wall Street Journal: Obama, GOP Senators Talk 'Grand Bargain' Over Dinner
One person familiar with the dinner conversation, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the group talked about reaching a bipartisan agreement on what the president calls a "grand bargain"—a sweeping budget deal that would shore up Social Security and Medicare while reining in deficits. It was clear from the dinner that divisions persist, participants said (Nicholas, Hook and Peterson, 4/10).

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