Senate Democrats, Obama Take Positions on Entitlements, Tax Code
On Wednesday, Senate Democratic leaders and President Obama took firm positions on entitlement reform, which could jeopardize negotiations with Republicans on a deal to avoid mandated spending cuts under sequestration, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The mandated spending cuts under sequestration include a 2% reduction to all Medicare reimbursement rates in 2013.
Democrats and Republican leaders are scheduled to begin negotiations on a deal to avoid sequestration on Friday (Lee et al.,Â Wall Street Journal, 11/14).
Earlier this week, Democrats and Obama suggested they would be open to negotiating on entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, if Republicans would make concessions on taxes.
However, Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Wednesday said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) would not bring entitlements to the negotiating table. However, Schumer noted that Democrats could be open to making Medicare more efficient, although he refused to discuss any specific proposals (National Journal, 11/14).
During a White HouseÂ press conferenceÂ on Wednesday, Obama echoed Senate Democrats' stance, saying he would not agree to a budget deal that did not raise the top rate tax. He noted that he would not draw "red lines" around his proposed 39.6% and said he is "open to new ideas" (Montgomery/Goldfarb,Â Washington Post, 11/14). However, he did not provide specifics on what concessions could be made to reach a deal (Sullivan/Wallsten, "Election 2012 Blog,"Â Washington Post, 11/14).
Obama also said that he is "eager" to work with Republicans to simplify the tax code and create a far-reaching plan to restrain government borrowing, but he suggested that lawmakers wait until next year to overhaul federal health programs (Washington Post, 11/14).
Republicans Reiterate Desire for Entitlement Reform
Democrats' and Obama's statements came after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday reiterated his position that a deal can be reached only if the president is serious about reforming entitlement programs. Boehner said he "always believed that [tax] revenues were going to have to be part of the solution," but Republicans also expect significant changes to entitlement programs, particularly Medicare and Medicaid (National Journal, 11/14).
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also said a deal that includes more taxes must include reductions to federal health programs (Wall Street Journal, 11/14).
Liberal Group Recommends $385B in Health Spending Reductions
In related news, the Center for American Progress on Wednesday released an alternative plan to the mandated spending cuts under sequestration, which would reduce federal health spending by $385 billion over 10 years,Â Kaiser Health News' "Capsules" reports (Galewitz, "Capsules,"Â Kaiser Health News, 11/14). The plan largely spares Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act and focuses mainly on Medicare service providers and higher-income Medicare beneficiaries (Alonso-Zaldivar,Â AP/U-T San Diego, 11/14).Â
The proposal would:
- Increase premiums by $25 billion for higher-income Medicare beneficiaries after 2019;Â
- Keep the Medicare eligibility age at 65;
- Reduce Medicare hospital reimbursement by $26 billion;
- Reduce Medicare payments for graduate medical education by $28 billion;
- Reduce Medicare payments to nursing homes and home health providers by $30 billion
- ("Capsules,"Â Kaiser Health News, 11/14); and
- Reduce funding to medical device companies by about $20 billion.
The center also recommends repealing the sustainable growth rate formula, which determines Medicare physician reimbursement rates, and replacing it with a model that rewards primary care and preventive care physicians (AP/U-T San Diego, 11/14).
AARP Survey Finds U.S. Residents Want Separate Medicare Debate
Most U.S. residents over age 50 have "significant concerns" about lawmakers attempting to reform Medicare during rushed "fiscal cliff" negotiations, according to aÂ surveyÂ released Wednesday by AARP,Â The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports (Viebeck, "Healthwatch,"Â The Hill, 11/14).
The survey, which was conducted between Nov. 7 and Nov. 8 and included 800 adults ages 50 and older, found that 70% of respondents believed Medicare reform should be discussed in a separate public debate (Catalini,Â National Journal, 11/14). Specifically, the survey found 71% of Democrats and independent voters over age 50 and 67% of Republicans said Medicare should not be included in the budget deal ("Healthwatch,"Â The Hill, 11/14).The survey also found that 76% of respondents do not support reducing Medicare benefits to lower the deficit (Ackley,Â Roll Call, 11/14). 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.