California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

GOP Senators Continue To Insist on Entitlement Reform in Budget Talks

On Thursday during a White House meeting, Republican lawmakers continued to push for substantial cuts to entitlement spending, specifically Medicare and Medicaid, in their ongoing effort to lower the federal budget deficit and debt, The Hill reports.

President Obama met with the group a day after meeting with Senate Democrats to discuss the debt-limit issue. White House press secretary Jay Carney said Obama made it clear that both sides would need to "give a little" to reach a compromise (Bolton/Youngman, The Hill, 5/12).

Republicans already have laid out proposals to overhaul Medicaid and privatize Medicare in the House-approved fiscal year 2012 budget resolution (H Con Res 34). Under the Medicare proposal in the Republican budget resolution, beneficiaries would receive fixed, lump-sum vouchers to purchase private health insurance (California Healthline, 5/9).

Under the Medicaid proposal, states would receive fixed annual block grants of $11,000 per Medicaid beneficiary to use as they choose. The two proposals are part of House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) broader budget blueprint to lower federal spending by $6 trillion over a decade and repeal and defund the federal health reform law (California Healthline, 4/29).

Obama Hosts 'Polite' Meeting, Agrees Entitlements Are 'On the Table'

After the meeting, Obama won praise from Republicans for facilitating a "polite" exchange of ideas in the ongoing search for a budget compromise, Politico reports. However, most of the ideas on ways to reduce the deficit -- including those regarding health care -- were "well-worn talking points," according to the attendees.

Republican Sens. John Barrasso (Wyo.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), Bob Corker (Tenn.), John Cornyn (Texas), and first-year GOP Sens. John Hoeven (N.D.), Rand Paul (Ky.), Rob Portman (Ohio), Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Pat Toomey (Pa.) spoke at the meeting.

Corker said that it is imperative to address entitlement spending. He said, "To really act as if we can deal with our nation's deficit without dealing with programs like Medicare and Medicaid, it really shows contempt for the people we serve." Corker added that Obama "indicated that he agreed that all entitlements need to be on the table."

McConnell Demands Spending Cuts, Entitlement Limits for Debt-Limit Deal

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who also attended the meeting, stressed the importance of addressing entitlement spending (Raju/Shiner, Politico, 5/12). McConnell said the debt-limit debate gives both parties an opportunity to make sweeping changes to entitlement programs and spending. He also opposed increasing the debt ceiling unless Democrats agreed to short-term cuts to discretionary spending and long-term cuts to Medicare and Medicaid (Steinhauer, New York Times, 5/12).

McConnell said he would not insist on the Republican budget proposal, but he said tightening eligibility requirements and reducing benefits for Medicare and Medicaid would need to be a part of any deal (Montgomery, Washington Post, 5/12).

Medicare Cuts 'On the Table' for Biden, Bipartisan Lawmakers

Following a separate meeting on Thursday, Vice President Biden said the bipartisan group of lawmakers working to reduce the deficit and raise the debt ceiling is discussing all aspects of the federal budget, including possible cuts to Medicare and other entitlement programs, Politico reports. He said the group is "actually making progress" on developing a budget package that would serve as a "significant down payment" toward reducing the deficit by $4 trillion over the next 10 years (Budoff Brown/Mason, Politico, 5/12).

Biden maintained that tax increases are being discussed in the meetings. He said Republicans want "to talk about long-term Medicare costs -- well, Democrats go 'wait a minute' ... it's all on the table. It's all open to discussion." He said there likely will not be any announcement on a deal for the next four to five meetings of the group (Wasson, "On the Money," The Hill, 5/12).

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