Today’s headlines – August 25, 2011

Good morning! Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including reports about a new Congressional Budget Office report and the usually unlikely assumptions it makes — including the end of Medicare physician payment fixes.

The Washington Post: Budget Deficit To Hit $1.3 Trillion This Year, Congressional Analysts Report
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says that revenue, coupled with the debt-reduction deal signed into law this month by President Obama, would cut projected deficits by $3.3 trillion, or nearly half, over the next 10 years. But that reduction will be realized only if lawmakers allow a series of tax cuts and other temporary revenue measures to expire. The prospect of that happening is considered dicey by many analysts, given the divisive political environment in Washington. The laws in question include … cuts in Medicare payment rates to doctors ( Fletcher, 8/24).

For more headlines …

The New York Times: Modest Expectations Urged On Deficit Cuts
Annual deficits would be $5 trillion higher for the decade, or a total of $8.5 trillion, assuming the White House and Congress continue several policies as in years past — keeping the lower income-tax rates of 2001 and 2003, which already were extended by two years last December; adjusting the alternative minimum tax annually so it does not hit middle-class taxpayers, and blocking a mandated cut in Medicare payments to doctors. The result would be deficits averaging 4.3 percent of gross domestic product instead of 1.8 percent, the budget office said; economists generally say annual deficits should not exceed 3 percent of gross domestic product (Calmes, 8/24).

The Wall Street Journal: Forecast Clouds Debt-Cut Outlook
The congressional panel charged with finding ways to reduce the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years received daunting news Wednesday when the Congressional Budget Office projected stubbornly high unemployment will accompany large deficits for much of the decade. … The challenge of reducing the deficit while spurring job growth is a key point of division between the two parties. Many Democrats are arguing for more spending to stimulate the economy; many Republicans are arguing for spending cuts and regulatory relief to the same end. … CBO cautioned that its projections make the unlikely assumption that Congress will let income and payroll tax cuts expire on schedule and reduce the fees paid to doctors who treat patients covered by Medicare (Paletta, 8/25).

Politico: Supercommitteers: Progress Made
The supercommittee might not have a staff director, rules in place, or a room to meet in, but leaders of the powerful budget-slashing panel insisted Wednesday that progress is being made. Co-chairs Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) said in a joint-statement that they’re engaged in “serious discussions” on the details (Kim, 8/24).

The Associated Press:  Survey: Overhaul May Push Employee Benefits Shift
Nearly one of every 10 midsized or big employers expects to stop offering health coverage to workers after insurance exchanges begin operating in 2014 as part of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, according to a survey by a major benefits consultant (Murphy, 8/24).

The Associated Press/ Washington Post:  Justice Lays Out Vision For $250M Greenbrier Medical Institute, Health Care ‘Think Tank’
The owner of The Greenbrier resort is teaming up with several prominent physicians and a health care developer to build a $250 million medical facility featuring a sports medicine and rehabilitation center, a cosmetic surgery center with a “lifestyle enhancement academy” and a boutique hotel with 20 VIP suites. Jim Justice announced the five-phase construction project for The Greenbrier Medical Institute on Wednesday in White Sulphur Springs alongside several physicians responsible for the concept, including Alabama orthopedic surgeon James R. Andrews (8/24).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: In Another Blow To Unions, Mich. Limits Local Government And School District Health Payouts
Michigan Republicans dealt another blow to public employee unions Wednesday as they pushed ahead with a plan to force local governments and school districts to cap health care spending or risk losing state aid, a move that would require workers to pay more for coverage and limit officials’ ability to negotiate local contracts (8/24).

Los Angeles Times: Google To Pay $500-Million Fine For Running Canadian Pharmacy Ads
Google Inc. has agreed to pay $500 million for carrying advertisements by online Canadian pharmacies targeting consumers in the United States, according to the U.S. Justice Department. The ads resulted in the illegal importation of prescription drugs, the Justice Department said (Li and Hsu, 8/25).

USA Today: Perry Leads GOP Field After Only A Week In The Race
Perry led former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the previous front-runner, by 12 percentage points, 29%-17%, the poll showed. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas placed third with 13% support from those surveyed, followed by Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, with 10% (Kucinich, 8/24).