California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

President Voices Support for Medicare Changes To Ensure Program Viability

During a joint congressional address on Thursday, President Obama called for Democratic lawmakers to allow for "modest adjustments" to Medicare to ensure the program's viability, National Journal reports.

According to National Journal, many congressional Democrats have argued that the federal health reform law already addressed the issue.

However, Obama stressed the need to make further changes to the program. "If we don't gradually reform the system while protecting current beneficiaries, it won't be there when future retirees need it," Obama said, adding, "We have to reform Medicare to strengthen it."

According to National Journal, the remarks suggest that the president's deficit reduction plan -- which is expected later this month -- will include changes to the program that increase the costs for beneficiaries (McCarthy, National Journal, 9/8).

First Meeting of Debt Panel

Also on Thursday, the 12 members of the newly created debt committee met for the first time. During the meeting, Democrats called for job-creation measures and additional revenue, while Republicans focused on changes to entitlement programs and budgetary stability (Krawzak, CQ Today, 9/8).

The bipartisan, bicameral panel -- also known as the "super committee" -- must develop and pass by the end of November at least $1.5 trillion in federal spending cuts over 10 years.

Failure to do so would trigger a series of across-the-board cuts. Medicaid would be exempt from those cuts, and Medicare would be protected from deep spending cuts. However, the deficit panel is not bound by those stipulations; many observers expect the panel will suggest deep cuts to entitlement spending (California Healthline, 9/7).

Panel Members Mull Medicare Cuts

According to the New York Times, panel members from both parties expressed willingness to find savings by making cuts to entitlement spending (Calmes/Pear, New York Times, 9/8).

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), the panel's co-chair, said that the committee "must primarily be about saving and reforming social-safety-net-programs that are not only failing many beneficiaries but going broke at the same time" (CQ Today, 9/8).

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said that he supports "smart and compassionate budget cuts." However, he cautioned against going too far with any entitlement cuts.

Meanwhile, Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) circulated a memo listing 24 options to reduce Medicare spending by more than $500 million over the next 10 years (New York Times, 9/8).

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said the panel will need to agree on a plan by the end of October in order to give the Congressional Budget Office enough time to review the proposal. Several members of the committee expressed that they would like to exceed the deficit reduction goal (CQ Today, 9/8).

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