President, Lawmakers Move Toward Deal To Avoid Medicare Cuts
During the first round of negotiations on Friday, President Obama and congressional leaders agreed to a two-stage approach to avoid looming mandated spending cuts under sequestration, which include cuts to Medicare provider payments, the Wall Street Journal reports (Lee et al., Wall Street Journal, 11/16).
Following the 70-minute meeting at the White House, congressional leaders appeared optimistic about their ability to reach a deal that would raise revenues and reduce entitlement spending, particularly for Medicare and Medicaid. According to the New York Times, the proposal would make a down payment to reduce this year's projected deficit and outline a framework for negotiating a long-term "grand bargain" in 2013 (Calmes/Weisman, New York Times, 11/16).
In order to reach a deal, both Republican and Democratic leaders agreed to make concessions, with Obama and Democrats signaling a willingness to address health care spending and reform entitlement programs, while Republicans suggested openness to increasing tax revenue (Montgomery/Goldfarb, Washington Post, 11/16)
"My hope is this is going to be the beginning of a fruitful process ... that will reduce our deficit in a balanced way, that we will deal with some of these long-term impediments to growth," Obama said during the meeting (Mascaro, "Politics Now," Los Angeles Times, 11/16).
According to the Washington Post, White House and congressional staffers have been dispatched to draft a proposed deficit-reduction framework to present to Obama after the Thanksgiving break, when negotiations are expected to continue (Washington Post, 11/16).
Lawmakers Comment on Potential Deals
Speaking outside of the White House after the meeting, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, "We understand our responsibility here. We understand that it has to be about cuts, it has to be about revenue, it has to be about growth, it has to be about the future." She added, "I feel confident that a solution may be in sight" (Calmes, New York Times, 11/16).
Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reiterated their willingness to raise tax revenue, provided that Democrats agree to entitlement reforms (Washington Post, 11/16). "We're prepared to put revenues on the table, provided we fix the real problem," Boehner said (Calmes/Weisman, New York Times, 11/16).
Federal Health Programs Could Face Reductions Under Sequestration
Budget and health policy experts on Friday said health care programs could face significant reductions if automated scheduled cuts under sequestration take effect in January, CQ HealthBeat reports.
The scheduled cuts include an 8.2% reduction to HHS' administrative budget. In addition, the Office of Management and Budget in September projected that NIH could face $2.5 billion in reductions, while FDA's budget would be reduced by $319 million if lawmakers do not reach a deal to avoid the sequester (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 11/16).
In addition, CDC could receive nearly $500,000 less annually for epidemiologists who worked to identify the source of the fungal meningitis outbreak and state public health officers charged with detecting contagious disease and biological warfare attacks, according to Politico (Samuelsohn, Politico, 11/18).
The automatic cuts could mean 30,000 fewer women would be screened for breast cancer through CDC programs and 12,000 to 15,000 fewer individuals would be able to receive financial help with their AIDS treatment, according to estimates from Tim Westmoreland, a senior scholar in health law at Georgetown University Law Center (CQ HealthBeat, 11/16).
CDC Director Thomas Frieden said the sequester, combined with significant layoffs for local public health professionals, "will risk costly and deadly spread of disease and failures to prevent tragic and expensive health problems" (Politico, 11/18).
AARP Lobbies on Medicare
AARP is using its 37 million members and $1.3 billion budget to oppose any deficit deal that includes increasing the Medicare eligibility age or reducing Medicare and Medicaid benefits, the Washington Post reports.
Nancy LeaMond, a lobbyist for AARP, said, "We're fighting to stop cuts to Medicare and Medicaid that will hurt beneficiaries." She said that Medicare savings can be found by slowing the growth in health care costs (Fletcher/Goldfarb, Washington Post, 11/17).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.