KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: December 13, 2012

Today's headlines include news stories about how proposals to cut Medicare and other entitlement programs are playing with Democrats, and how a new poll shows overwhelming support from the public for a compromise deficit deal.  

Kaiser Health News: Medicare Silver Bullets: What's The Best Way To Control Costs
KHN asked a range of health policy experts the following question: If you could make only one change to Medicare to control costs, what would it be and why? (12/12). Read edited excerpts of their answers.

The Wall Street Journal: Spending-Cut Proposals Drawing Democratic Flak
One big question in Washington's budget talks is whether Republicans will make more concessions on taxes. This week, the counterpoint has started to come into play: What will Democrats swallow on spending cuts? The prospect of cuts to Medicare and other entitlement programs is making many Democrats anxious. Of particular concern is Republicans' call for increasing the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67, an idea that could split Democrats (Hook and Lee, 12/12).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: 'Fiscal Cliff' Vexing Official Washington As Both Sides Show Little Inclination To Compromise
Republicans still aren't budging on Obama's demands for higher tax rates on upper bracket earners, despite the president's convincing election victory and opinion polls showing support for the idea. Democrats in turn are now resisting steps, such as raising the eligibility age for Medicare, that they were willing to consider just a year and a half ago, when Obama’s chief Republican adversary, House Speaker John Boehner, was in a better tactical position (12/13).

Los Angeles Times: Boehner: Obama's 'Fiscal Cliff' Deal 'Mainly Tax Hikes'
Republican leaders kicked off Wednesday with a fierce critique of President Obama's handling of "fiscal cliff" negotiations, part of the political posturing on both sides that has characterized efforts to avoid across-the-board tax hikes and spending cuts before a January deadline (Little, 12/12).

The Wall Street Journal: Democrats Confident They Have 'Cliff' Leverage
The Democrats' buoyancy isn't limitless, and there are signs it will soften as talks enter a more intense phase. With the end of the year approaching, more Democrats are saying they recognize they will have to agree to safety-net cuts to get a deal, and some on the party's left worry that is what will happen (Bendavid, 12/12).

The New York Times: News Analysis: Income Malaise Of Middle Class Complicates Democrats' Stance In Talks
Many Democrats have derided the expiring tax cuts as irresponsible since President George W. Bush signed them a decade ago. Yet the party is united in pushing to make the vast majority of them permanent, even though President Obama could ensure their expiration at year’s end with a simple veto. That decision reflects concern over the wage and income trends of the last decade, when pay stagnated for middle-class families, net worth declined and economic mobility eroded. Democrats who generally would prefer more tax revenue to help pay the growing cost of Medicare and other programs are instead negotiating with Republicans to find a combination of spending cuts and targeted tax increases for higher incomes (Lowry, 12/12).

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Poll Finds Big Support For Compromise Deficit Deal
A large majority of Americans of all political persuasions says Congress should craft a compromise to reduce the federal budget deficit, even if that means making cuts to Social Security and Medicare and increasing some tax rates, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds (King, 12/12).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Fla. Gov. Scott, 10 Other Governors, Seek Meeting With Obama To Discuss New Health Care Law
Eleven Republican governors, including Florida's Rick Scott, Louisiana's Bobby Jindal and Arizona's Jan Brewer want to meet with President Barack Obama to discuss the federal health overhaul, including ways to make expanding the Medicaid rolls and setting up online health exchanges more affordable for states with tight budgets (12/12).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Pa. Governor Says State Won't Set Up Health Exchange Under Affordable Care Act
Pennsylvania will not set up its own health care exchange under the federal Affordable Care Act, at least not for now, Gov. Tom Corbett said Wednesday, putting the state on a course to join others led by Republicans that will let President Barack Obama's administration run its exchange (12/12).

The Washington Post: Obamacare Everywhere: U.N. Votes In Favor Of Universal Health Coverage
The United Nations General Assembly voted in favor of a draft resolution supporting universal health coverage, signaling the importance of universal healthcare to the international development agenda (Khazan, 12/12).

Los Angeles Times: A Shift In How Healthcare Is Paid For
This simple shift in how healthcare is paid for — long seen as key to taming costs — has been occurring in pockets of the country. But nowhere is it happening more systematically than in Massachusetts, the state that blazed a trail in 2006 by guaranteeing its residents health insurance. Now Massachusetts, a model for President Obama's 2010 national healthcare law, may offer another template for national leaders looking to control health spending (Levey, 12/12).

Los Angeles Times: Blue Shield Of California Seeks Rate Hikes Up To 20%
Health insurer Blue Shield of California wants to raise rates as much as 20% for some individual policyholders, prompting calls for the nonprofit to use some of its record-high reserve of $3.9 billion to hold down premiums (Terhune, 12/13).

The New York Times: Nursing Homes Told To Reinstate Workers
A federal judge in Hartford has ordered a Connecticut nursing home chain to reinstate nearly 600 workers who have been on strike since July 3, and to rescind the pension and health care cuts it had imposed (Greenhouse, 12/12).

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