Budget Talks Progressing Slowly; Boehner Calls for ACA To Be ‘On the Table’
Although negotiators have been meeting in private over the Thanksgiving break to review proposals, they have made little progress toward reaching a deal to avoid looming mandated spending reductions under sequestration, which include cuts to Medicare provider payments, the Wall Street Journal reports (Lee/Hook, Wall Street Journal, 11/20).
In an interview with ABC's "This Week," Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said that over the past 10 days "much progress hasn't been made." According to Reuters, Republicans and Democrats are at an impasse over funding reductions to entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, and President Obama's proposal to raise taxes for high-income individuals.
However, Durbin said that Democrats are willing to make "meaningful reforms in Medicare and Medicaid," as long as they do not compromise the integrity of the program (Lange, Reuters, 11/25).
Obama and congressional leaders are expected to meet this week to discuss options (Wall Street Journal, 11/20).
Boehner Says ACA Must Be Part of Negotiations
In related news, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Wednesday introduced a new obstacle to a final deal, writing in a Cincinnati Enquirer opinion piece that the Affordable Care Act must be "on the table" during "fiscal cliff" talks, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 11/21).
Although Boehner did not specifically mention the deficit reduction negotiations, he said that "the law has to stay on the table as both parties discuss ways to solve our nation's massive debt challenge" (Rampton, Reuters, 11/22). He added, "We can't afford [the ACA], and we can't afford to leave it intact" (Sargent, "The Plum Line," Washington Post, 11/21).
Boehner's position echoes the comments he made on ABC News two days after the election, when he said "everything has to be on the table" as lawmakers try "to find a way to create a path toward a balanced budget" (Kliff, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 11/21).
Analysts say Boehner's stance illustrates how difficult it will be for lawmakers to reach a deal as formal negotiations resume this week (Reuters, 11/22).
CAP Medicare Proposal Could Represent Common Ground for Democrats, GOP
Introducing more competition into the Medicare program could be an area in which Democrats and Republicans could compromise in fiscal cliff negotiations, National Journal reports.
Although Democrats "strongly opposed" a proposal adopted by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney that would have had Medicare compete with private insurance in an open marketplace, many now seem open to an idea proposed by the liberal Center for American Progress that would use competition to drive down prices in the Medicare program.
Under the CAP proposal, companies that make medical equipment would propose bids to Medicare for prices, as opposed to the current practice in which Medicare pays such companies a formulaic rate. Further, the proposal would have Medicare Advantage plans offer bids for covering beneficiaries. The federal government would pay plans an average amount of the bids.
According to CAP, the plan would reduce Medicare spending by $385 billion over 10 years. According to National Journal, savings such as those could be included in fiscal cliff negotiations (McCarthy, National Journal, 11/25).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.