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Fiscal Cliff Deal Could Mean Medicare Changes

From Kaiser Health News

As Congress prepares to return this week, the Sunday talk shows included talk of compromise in connection with the fiscal-cliff negotiations, though there are fears of even more partisan fighting in the next Congress. Here's a sampling of the news coverage:

Politico: Durbin: Reason For Fiscal Cliff Optimism
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said on Sunday there was reason for optimism about the prospect of bipartisan deal to avert the fiscal cliff . . . Durbin hinted at a willingness to discuss entitlement reform, but he said Social Security should be left off the table. "Social Security: set aside. It doesn't add to the deficit," he said. "But when it comes to Medicare and Medicaid, protect the integrity of the program but give it solvency for many years." (Mak, 11/25)

Politico: King On Norquist's Pledge: 'The World Has Changed'
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) rebuked Grover Norquist's anti-tax pledge Sunday, declaring "the world has changed and the economic situation is different." . . . "We should not be taking iron-clad positions," King said on fiscal cliff negotiations, adding he didn't want to "pre-judge" any compromises that could be under discussion between Republican and Democratic leaders. . . . King pointed to Republican President Ronald Reagan's work with Democratic House Speaker Tip O'Neill (D-Mass.) as an example for bipartisan compromise. (Mak, 11/25)

National Journal: Medicare Competition Makes Bipartisan Comeback
After President Obama's reelection win, you might think that talk of competition in Medicare - a cornerstone of Mitt Romney's campaign - would fall by the wayside. But introducing greater competition into the health program for older Americans is an idea that could prove ripe for a bipartisan compromise in any "Grand Bargain" on the budget. . . . the liberal Center for American Progress issued a report proposing $385 billion in health care savings over 10 years. Finding money in the mammoth federal health program is important in the "fiscal cliff" talks, as Republicans are demanding cuts to entitlement programs . . . One of the center's proposals? Adding competition into Medicare. (McCarthy, 11/25)

The New York Times: Slugging It Out, Inside Obama's Mind
[P]olicy makers are debating how to avoid hitting a wall on Jan. 1, when large and abrupt tax increases and spending cuts will take effect automatically unless Congress acts. . . . Here is the dialogue, as I imagine it, between the two policy wonks - the Moderate Obama and the Liberal Obama - struggling for control of the president's soul. . . . LIB: Our signature achievement in the first term was to make the social safety net more generous with Obamacare. (I've really come to like that term.) I don't want to devote our second term to undermining the safety net by making Social Security and Medicare less generous. MOD: But we promised a balanced approach. That meant raising taxes on the rich, together with substantial reductions in government spending. (Mankiw, 11/24)

The Associated Press: Fiscal Cliff: How To Judge If Debt Cuts Are Real
Raising money from higher rates, closing loopholes or a combination of the two would create real revenue for the government. The problem is many tax deductions and credits , such as for home mortgages and the value of employer-provided health insurance, are so popular that enacting them into law over objections from the public and lobbyists would be extremely difficult. . . . A serious agreement should specify how much savings would come from entitlements, meaning those big, costly benefit programs such as Social Security and Medicare. (Fram, 11/24)

Meanwhile, other coverage looked ahead to January:

The Associated Press: New Congress: Fewer Moderates Make Deals Harder
When the next Congress cranks up in January, there will be more women, many new faces and 11 fewer tea party-backed House Republicans from the class of 2010 who sought a second term. Overriding those changes, though, is a thinning of pragmatic, centrist veterans in both parties. . . . That could leave the parties more polarized even as President Barack Obama and congressional leaders talk up the cooperation needed to tackle complex, vexing problems such as curbing deficits, revamping tax laws and culling savings from Medicare and other costly, popular programs. (Fram, 11/25)

The Hill: Blue Dog Democrats Fight For Relevance
Blue Dog Democrats will limp into the 113th Congress with their numbers cut in half - a diminished minority within a minority party. The once-influential coalition of conservative Democrats, which counted 54 members following the 2008 election, is now striving for relevance and ways to replenish its ranks. . . . [But] members say it remains an important voice on Capitol Hill, at a time when both parties have tracked to the center, at least rhetorically, ahead of "fiscal cliff." (Trujillo, 11/25)

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