KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Opinions On The Sequester: Too Much Medicare Spending On The Affluent; Boehner Says Obama Got More Taxes In The Health Law

As the automatic spending cuts grow nearer, some analysts offer their perspective.

The Wall Street Journal: The President Is Raging Against A Budget Crisis He Created
The president has repeatedly called for even more tax revenue, but the American people don't support trading spending cuts for higher taxes. They understand that the tax debate is now closed. The president got his higher taxes—$600 billion from higher earners, with no spending cuts—at the end of 2012. He also got higher taxes via ObamaCare. Meanwhile, no one should be talking about raising taxes when the government is still paying people to play videogames, giving folks free cellphones, and buying $47,000 cigarette-smoking machines (House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, 2/19).

The New York Times: Old And Rich? Less Help For You
Democrats want to close the budget gap by having the government lean more heavily on the wealthy, while Republicans want to close it by having the government spend less money. Both sides should agree at least to spend less money on the wealthy — via means testing. It may surprise some Americans to learn that the United States spends quite a lot on the affluent, especially through the entitlement programs at the heart of the budget fight: Social Security and Medicare. Both programs move money from relatively poorer young people to relatively richer old people, and they are growing ever more expensive. Means-testing — allocating benefits according to need — might offer both sides a way out (Yuval Levin, 2/19).

The Washington Post: A Grand Bargain On Life Support
(Alan) Simpson and (Erskine) Bowles said Tuesday that health-care cuts would need to be $600 billion over a decade. That's part of their new plan to shave $2.4 trillion from the deficit over 10 years; they would also raise $600 billion in tax revenue by limiting deductions, and they would cut an additional $1.2 trillion from farm subsidies, Social Security and other programs. Bowles on Tuesday restated the obvious: Obama needs to accept deeper cuts to the government's health-care spending, and Republicans need to accept more tax increases. But this assumes both sides want a grand bargain to right the nation’s finances — and it's no longer obvious that they do (Dana Milbank, 2/19).

The Washington Post: The Blame Game Over Sequestration
The sequester would slash $85 billion between now and Sept. 30, half from discretionary programs and half from defense. Both of these have already been trimmed in previous budget deals — defense to the point where Pentagon leaders predict damage to national security if the sequester goes through on March 1. Entitlements, meanwhile, remain unreformed (2/19).

The Wall Street Journal: President Armageddon
The sequester is far from ideal and it would make much more sense to work with Congress to set priorities. But Mr. Obama has rejected every meaningful reform in entitlements that Republicans or his own Simpson-Bowles commission have offered. ObamaCare will add more than $1 trillion in new costs and add some 17 million people to Medicaid, but he says this can't be touched. In his State of the Union address Mr. Obama proposed $83.4 billion in new spending, according to a tally by the National Taxpayers Union (2/19).

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