KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: December 12, 2012

Today's headlines feature reports that GOP lawmakers want to see details regarding the safety net cuts President Barack Obama would offer as part of the "fiscal cliff" talks while some liberal Democrats want to leave Medicaid out of it.  

Kaiser Health News: Q & A: Options For Patients Who Get Out-Of-Network Care (Video)
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews answers a reader question about handling an out-of-network bill from a provider the patient didn't choose (12/11). Watch the video.

Kaiser Health News: As Population Diversifies, Rethinking How We Care For Elderly
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Liz Seegert writes: "The elderly population of the future may not look much like the old people of today. It will be less white and with fewer native English speakers. That means physicians, nurses, social workers and health aides will have to adapt to our increasingly diverse society, according to Peggye Dilworth-Anderson, professor, health policy & management, and interim co-director of the Institute on Aging at the University of North Carolina. She says that not understanding the 'cultural context' of each patient can lead to inappropriate diagnoses and treatment and contribute to health disparities" (Seegert, 12/11). Read the story.

Los Angeles Times: Fiscal Talks Hobbled By New Finger-Pointing
Optimism surrounding secretive high-level budget talks faded quickly Tuesday amid a fresh round of partisan finger-pointing, reducing the chances of a resolution to the fiscal standoff by Christmas. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) spoke to President Obama by phone late in the evening after presenting a GOP counteroffer. Republicans, meanwhile, showed further signs of political division. Top members of the party … said the GOP should accept the president's offer to raise tax rates on the top 2% of Americans in exchange for spending cuts. … But Republican negotiators continued to hold out for deeper reductions to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other safety net programs than the president has been willing to accept, contributing to the stalemate that could result in a tax increase for most Americans (Mascaro and Mason, 12/11).

The Washington Post: Obama, Boehner Trade 'Fiscal Cliff' Proposals But Appear No Closer To A Deal
Even as Boehner spokesman Michael Steel announced that a new offer had been delivered to the White House, he complained that Republicans are "still waiting" for Obama to propose serious cuts to popular health and retirement programs that are forecast to swell the national debt in coming decades (Montgomery and Kane, 12/11).

Los Angeles Times: Boehner Pushes Obama For Cuts Related To 'Fiscal Cliff'
Boehner said he remained optimistic after his private meeting over the weekend with Obama at the White House, but took the unusual move of delivering floor comments after both sides had remained mum after their secretive session. "Where are the president's spending cuts?" Boehner said as the chamber opened Tuesday. "When is the president going to get serious?" Boehner has said his party would be willing to consider new tax revenue through an overhaul of the tax code, but in exchange Republicans want steep cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and the Social Security safety net (Mascaro, 12/11).

Politico: John Boehner: Where Are Obama's Cuts?
Speaker John Boehner tried again to shift the fiscal cliff debate from tax rates to spending cuts, saying Tuesday that the White House has yet to "identify what spending cuts the president is willing to make as part of the 'balanced approach' he promised the American people" (Sherman and Kim, 12/12).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Fiscal Cliff Talks Intensify, But With Little Apparent Progress As End-Of-Year Deadline Looms
Leading lawmakers expressed pessimism that a deal was close, despite increasing angst about a Dec. 31 deadline to stop the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts and separate across-the-board spending cuts that are the result of Washington's failure to complete a deficit-reduction deal last year. … The Boehner camp again said it's up to the White House to proffer additional spending cuts to programs like Medicare. The White House countered that Republicans still need to cave on raising tax rates for the rich (12/12).

USA Today: Obama, Boehner Trade New Fiscal Cliff Offers
In an interview with ABC News, Obama said he believes Republicans will give on their opposition to raising tax rates. "I'm pretty confident that Republicans would not hold middle-class taxes hostage to trying to protect tax cuts for high-income individuals," he said. All of the George W. Bush era tax cuts expire Dec. 31. Democrats want to extend the current rates for all but the top 2%. Meanwhile, Boehner called out the president from the House floor for stalling negotiations because Obama has not proposed enough spending cuts to appease Republicans (Page, 12/12).

The New York Times: As Fiscal Talks Heat Up, Questions On Whether Boehner Can Get The Votes
On Monday, the president presented a new offer and on Tuesday, Mr. Boehner answered back as he and the president conferred by telephone. That talk came two days after a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office without staff members present — their first solo meeting since those failed talks toward a "grand bargain" in July 2011. While neither provided details, one person familiar with the White House proposal said Mr. Obama had reduced his call for $1.6 trillion in additional revenues from the wealthy over the first 10 years to $1.4 trillion, still $600 billion higher than the Republicans' position. And another said the president also proposed that the two sides commit to working on overhauling the corporate tax code next year (Calmes and Weisman, 12/11).

NPR: Democrats Draw Line On Medicaid Cuts
At least in public, Republicans have been clear that they see the current budget negotiations as a chance to address what they see as the source of Washington's deficit problem: Major entitlement programs. … But if Republicans have drawn a line in the sand insisting that those major programs be put on the table for negotiation, Democrats are drawing a line of their own. They say Medicaid, which serves the health care needs of some 60 million low-income Americans, needs to be taken off the table (Rovner, 12/12).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Liberal Democrats Say Medicaid Must Not Be Cut As Part Of Bipartisan Bargain On Fiscal Cliff
Liberal Democratic members of Congress are warning President Barack Obama to not cut the Medicaid health care program as part of negotiations with Republicans over avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff (12/11).

Los Angeles Times: 'Obamacare,' Fiscal Cliff Leads To Small Business Optimism Plunge
It’s the fiscal cliff’s fault, according to a new report from the National Federation of Independent Business. The threat of major spending cuts and tax hikes in the new year has caused a forward-looking gauge of Main Street sentiment to plummet. The election and the looming implementation of President Obama's health coverage overhaul is also weighing on small business owners, according to the report (Hsu, 12/11).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Utah Governor Asks Obama To Approve State’s Own Health Care Exchange
Utah's Gov. Gary Herbert is asking President Barack Obama to approve a health insurance exchange the state already has in place and declare that it meets the requirements of the federal health overhaul. It’s not clear he will get his wish (12/11).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Federal Government Seeks Dismissal Of Suit Over Birth Control Requirement In Health Care Law
The federal government has asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta and other religious institutions seeking to overturn a provision in the federal health care law that requires group health plans to provide free birth control (12/11).

The Wall Street Journal: Abortion Clinic Presses To Stay Open
Mississippi's only abortion clinic says it won't be able to meet a requirement of a new state law that tightens regulations for abortion providers, and has asked a federal judge to prevent state officials from revoking its license (McWhirter, 12/11).

The New York Times: Health Centers Find Opportunity In Brownfields
The community health center rising on a derelict corner here in West Philadelphia never would have broken ground if not for the asbestos inside the building that was demolished to make way for it. Because of the contamination, Spectrum Health Services received a $2 million federal cleanup grant, the first piece of a $14 million construction financing puzzle (Kaysen, 12/11).

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